Monday, February 1, 2016

2015: The Warmest Year On Record

Thursday, January 28, 2016 
1:44 pm

Credit: NOAA National Center for Environmental Information
Retrieved from

2015 was destined to be the warmest year on record. In terms of ocean temperatures, we had one of the strongest El Niños on record brewing in the Tropical Pacific, a mighty "Blob" of warm water in the Northeast Pacific, and abundant warm water throughout the Indian Ocean. We'll see what the global warming skeptics have to say now, especially since of the past 5 years, 4 have been the warmest on record. That's not natural variability.

As the graphic above shows, the other warm years were 2005 (5th warmest) and 1998 (6th warmest). The El Niño of 1997-1998 was a very strong one as well, and in many respects, even stronger than our current one. Although that El Niño did not have the added heat contribution from the Blob, the decrease in upwelling in the Eastern Tropical Pacific warmed ocean temperatures far above their normal levels, which in turn influenced atmospheric temperatures.

The picture below shows the temperature percentiles over the globe for the past year. Notice how many places are "much warmer than average" or "record warmest," with the "record warmest" places being the Tropical Pacific, the Northeast Pacific off the coast of North America, and the Indian Ocean.

Credit: NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information

Now, take a look at this SST anomaly animated gif I compiled. This shows the recorded SST over the world's oceans for the past year starting at 1/25/2016 and going to 1/23/2016. It's not a perfect representation of 2015 (a month late) but it shows the general idea. There's a lot of really warm water in those aforementioned places, especially the Tropical and Northeastern Pacific.

Credit: NOAA Earth Systems Research Laboratory Map Room

Just for fun, here are the actual sea-surface temperatures of the same time frame.

Credit: NOAA Earth Systems Research Laboratory Map Room

Bathtub temperatures in the Western Tropical Pacific and Northern Indian Ocean!

As previously mentioned, during the 1997-1998 El Niño, 1998 was hotter than 2016. 2015 shattered previous temperature records, but will 2016 be even warmer? It's hard to tell, but with a dead Blob, I think 2015 will hold its title for at least a couple years. But global warming is very real. If you are scared by this year, you don't want to know what mankind will be dealing with two centuries from now if we continue business as usual (scenario 8.5).

Credit: Environmental Protection Agency

Conserve whenever possible!


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