Despite the cold Arctic air pushing down into the east and midwest of North America, the record warmth for October was fairly evenly distributed across the globe, the NCDC report says. Globally, the average land surface temperature was the fifth highest on record at 1.89° F above the 20th century average. Land surface temperature in the Southern Hemisphere reached record highs, with particular warmth in much of South America and large part of southern and western Australia. Average land surface temperature in the Northern Hemisphere was the third highest on record.
Heat in the oceans
Much of the record heat is driven by the rapid increase in ocean temperature. October is the sixth consecutive month, starting in May, or record-breaking ocean heat. Average ocean surface temperature was 61.72° F, or 1.12° above the 20th century average of 60.6° F. Oceans store about 90 percent of the heat connected with global warming. Recent reports that ocean warming in the Southern Hemisphere has been underestimated makes the overall picture of a continued upward trend in global heat even more troubling.
The trend, not the record
As well as setting a new record, October is the 356th month in a row, as well as the 38th consecutive October, above its 20th century average. Setting records isn’t the most important signal of global warming, says Texas Tech climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe. There will always be natural short-term variations, but the clear trend over multiple decades “is climate change, and we are seeing it in spades.”
In an email. Michael Mann, a climate scientist at Pennsylvania State University, expressed his hope that this new data will finally lay to rest “the silly ongoing claims that global warming has ‘stopped’ or that there is a ‘hiatus’ in global warming.”
That may not be likely in Washington D.C. when a newly elected Republican controlled Senate takes charge, among the few still clinging to this tired climate denial meme. Surely the cold air in parts of the U.S., including the nation’s capitol, will embolden GOP claims that global warming isn’t real, but the parts of country hit by the chill account for only about 1.5 percent of the entire globe. Meanwhile, California, suffering from years of severe drought, is in line with the rest of the globe for its hottest year on record.
Graphic courtesy of NOAA