2015 Smashes Global Temp Record

January 20, 2016

Above, for right brain dominant types, a musical recreation of global warming, courtesy reader Charlie Williams.


NOAA scientists confirmed today that 2015 set a new record for warmest average surface temperature on planet Earth. According to the press release:


During 2015, the average temperature across global land and ocean surfaces was 1.62°F (0.90°C) above the 20th century average. This was the highest among all years in the 1880-2015 record, surpassing the previous record set last year by 0.29°F (0.16°C). This is also the largest margin by which the annual global temperature record has been broken. Ten months had record high temperatures for their respective months during the year. The five highest monthly departures from average for any month on record all occurred during 2015. Since 1997, which at the time was the warmest year on record, 16 of the subsequent 18 years have been warmer than that year.



Scientists reported Wednesday that 2015 was the hottest year in recorded history by far, breaking a record set only the year before — a burst of heat that has continued into the new year and is roiling weather patterns all over the world.

In the contiguous United States, the year was the second-warmest on record, punctuated by a December that was both the hottest and the wettest since record-keeping began. One result has been a wave of unusual winter floods coursing down the Mississippi River watershed.

Scientists started predicting a global temperature record months ago, in part because an El Niño weather pattern, one of the largest in a century, is releasing an immense amount of heat from the Pacific Ocean into the atmosphere. But the bulk of the record-setting heat, they say, is a consequence of the long-term planetary warming caused by human emissions of greenhouse gases.

“The whole system is warming up, relentlessly,” said Gerald A. Meehl, a scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo.

It will take a few more years to know for certain, but the back-to-back records of 2014 and 2015 may have put the world back onto a trajectory of rapid global warming, after a period of relatively slow warming dating to the last powerful El Niño, in 1998.

Politicians attempting to claim that greenhouse gases are not a problem seized on that slow period to argue that “global warming stopped in 1998” and similar statements, with these claims reappearing recently on the Republican presidential campaign trail.

Statistical analysis suggested all along that the claims were false, and the slowdown was, at most, a minor blip in an inexorable trend, perhaps caused by a temporary increase in the absorption of heat by the Pacific Ocean.

“Is there any evidence for a pause in the long-term global warming rate?” said Gavin A. Schmidt, head of NASA’s climate-science unit, the Goddard Institute for Space Studies, in Manhattan. “The answer is no. That was true before last year, but it’s much more obvious now.”


While global temperature records are normally measured in hundredths of degrees Fahrenheit, NOAA reports 2015 crushed the previous record just set in 2014 by nearly three tenths of a degree, or 0.29°F (0.16°C) above the previous record, which was set in 2014.

Last month was not just the hottest December on record, blowing out the previous record (set in 2014) by a staggering half degree — 0.52°F (0.29°C). NOAA reports “The December temperature departure from average was also the highest departure among all months in the historical record and the first time a monthly departure has reached +2°F from the 20th century average.”

The NOAA and NASA findings are consistent with other key global surface temperature datasets. For instance, Berkeley Earth — originally funded in part by deniers like Charles Koch to disprove global warming — reported last week that “2015 was unambiguously the hottest year on record.”

The blowout record warmth of 2015 erases the notion of a so-called pause in warming. NASA and Columbia University climatologists explain that “the updated global temperature record makes it clear that there was no global warming ‘hiatus’.” Similarly, Berkeley Earth’s Scientific Director Richard Muller, says 2015 “confirms our previous interpretation” that “global warming has not slowed.”

Far from slowing down, according to a number of studies last year from NOAA and others, we may well be entering an era of even more rapid global warming. Indeed, the combination of short-term warming from the ongoing El Niño with the long-term human-caused global warming trend mean that “2016 is likely to be at least as warm, if not warmer” than 2015, as UK Met Office research fellow Chris Folland explained in December. NOAA’s Tom Karl and NASA’s Gavin Schmidt told reporters Wednesday that the chances were better than even that 2016 will top 2015.


For the first time Earth is 1 degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit) warmer than it was in pre-industrial times, NOAA and NASA said. That’s a key milestone because world leaders have set a threshold of trying to avoid warming of 1.5 or degrees Celsius above pre-industrial times.

Because of the pace of rising temperatures, “we don’t have very far to go to reach 1.5,” Karl said.

But 1.5 or 2 degrees are not “magic numbers” and “we’re already seeing the impacts of global warming,” said NASA Goddard Institute of Space Studies director Gavin Schmidt.

“This trend will continue; it will continue because we understand why it’s happening,” Schmidt said. “It’s happening because the dominant force is carbon dioxide” from burning of fossil fuels like coal, oil and gas.

Although 2015 is now the hottest on record, it was the fourth time in 11 years that Earth broke annual marks for high temperature.

“It’s getting to the point where breaking record is the norm,” Texas Tech climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe said. “It’s almost unusual when we’re not breaking a record.”

December 2015 was the 10th month last year that set a monthly warmth record, with only January and April not hitting high marks.

“That’s the first time we’ve seen that,” said NOAA’s Karl.


You will not be surprised to know that 2015 was yet another hottest year ever recorded in the instrumental record, beating 2014 by a huge 0.13 °C. It was 1.25 °C hotter than pre-industrial. It is now 106 years since there was a “coldest year on record”.
Anyone who tries to tell you it hasn’t warmed since 1996, or 1997, or 1998, is dead wrong.


In the midst of this, a senior scientist emails me “..By the way january is currently 0.05 hotter than December.”

6 Responses to “2015 Smashes Global Temp Record”

  1. Sir Charles Says:

    And NASA’s Global Warming Melody 1880 – 2015

  2. redskylite Says:

    What a powerful story those simple graphs portray. I am grateful for the foresight of our forefathers who initially set up national & international weather monitoring stations, and for the picture that we have patiently built up over 135 years.

    I am glad that students & scientists overwinter at both of our polar regions, and continue monitoring the indicators of our planetary performance and state.

    ARGO is another amazing project that is being continually enhanced, and enabling science to understand how our oceans are being affected and are changing. We should see some telling trends from future ARGO data going deeper and deeper into our oceans.

    NZ Scientists measure climate change in deep ocean

    Thursday 21 Jan 2016

    – As part of the International Argo Project, which has about 4000 floats deployed around the world at 2000 metres, the Deep Argos are essentially “taking the pulse of the ocean”.

    The New Zealand Argos will record measurements all the way down the sea floor at around 5700m, remaining there for 10 days, before resurfacing to transmit data to a satellite and descending again.


  3. addledlady Says:

    I know a lot of us are concentrating on the fact that this is an El Nino year and that next year is likely to be an even hotter record year. But … There are heaps of recent articles in various news sites about the problems of smog and haze in many cities in China and India as well as several other places. Most of the affected countries claim that they’re on the job and they’re going to improve air quality.

    Personally, I don’t expect to see quick results from whatever action is initiated. However, 5 or 10 years from now we might be seeing clearer air over Guangzhou and Delhi and a couple of dozen similar cities. Clearing the air might remove some public health problems with respiratory diseases, but it will also unmask some of the atmospheric warming that we’ve been able to kid ourselves is in the oceans. It’s not. It’s just waiting for its chance to show off.

    An El Nino year in those changed, “better” conditions will likely blow the socks off previous anomaly records.

    • grindupbaker Says:

      Your are quite correct of course that the atmospheric warming isn’t “in the oceans” because the thermal capacities are so vastly different. I wish climate scientists would stop saying that, it annoys me greatly. I wish even Dr. Kevin Trenberth would stop saying that OHC can be included in “global warming” “if you like” because it was given a cheesy mix of fivepenny definitions involving surface & troposphere only, and that’s a fait accompli. Usually Trenberth is more careful than that. However, it isn’t correct to say that the same cause of much of it, that increase in Pacific Easterly Trade Wind speed by 1 m/s, didn’t cause much of both, because it caused much of both as seen with trivial simplicity by that geographical pictorial of temperature anomalies such as in a Trenberth talk I listened to, something like 1980-2000 vs 2000-2010 (I forget) showing no warming at all in most of Pacific Ocean (some cooling) while Canada, Northern Asia & The Arctic warmed a lot. That vast Pacific Ocean really holds down the global average anomaly and the air currents from it must holds back the anomalies at other places also.

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