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2014 will be the hottest year on record

Posted on 17 December 2014 by John Abraham

For those of us fixated on whether 2014 will be the hottest year on record, the results are in. At least, we know enough that we can make the call. According the global data from NOAA, 2014 will be the hottest year ever recorded.

I can make this pronouncement even before the end of the year because each month, I collect daily global average temperatures. So far, December is running about 0.5°C above the average. The climate and weather models predict that the next week will be about 0.75°C above average. This means, December will come in around 0.6°C above average. Are these daily values accurate? Well the last two months they have been within 0.05°C of the final official results.

What does this all mean? Well, when I combine December with the year-to-date as officially reported, I predict the annual temperature anomaly will be 0.674°C. This beats the prior record by 0.024°C. That is a big margin in terms of global temperatures.

For those of us who are not fixated on whether any individual year is a record but are more concerned with trends, this year is still important. Particularly because according to those who deny the basic physics and our understanding of climate change, this year wasn’t supposed to be particularly warm.

For those who thought that climate change was “natural” and driven by ocean currents, this has been a tough year. For instance, using NOAA standards, this year didn’t even have an El Niño. NOAA defines an El Niño as 5 continuous/overlapping 3-month time periods wherein a particular region in the Pacific has temperatures elevated more than 0.5oC.

Interestingly, we are currently close to an El Niño, and if current patterns continue for a few weeks, an official El Niño will be announced. But it hasn’t been yet, and if we do get an El Niño, it will affect next year more than this year. How could the hottest year have occurred then, when the cards are not stacked in its favor? The obvious and correct answer is, because of continued emission of greenhouse gases.

As I write this post, I am attending one of the premier earth sciences conference, the Fall AGU Conference which is held each December in San Francisco. Thousands of scientists, including a large number of climate scientists are meeting, presenting, and sharing the latest research about our planet.

Here, among the experts, there is little fixation on the record. On the other hand, there was little fixation on the so-called “halt” to global warming that the climate-science deniers have been trumpeting for the past few years. The latest data paint a clear picture. The Earth is warming. The oceans are warming, the land is warming, the atmosphere is warming, the ice is melting, and sea level is rising.

These climate science deniers have had a bad year.

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Comments 1 to 21:

  1. “These climate science deniers have had a bad year.”

    Not really. They would have if their arguments were based on reality, but they aren't. They're based on ideological expediency.

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  2. John,

    Excellent post.  Would it be possible for you to update your daily average once or twice more before the official records are released for the year (perhaps on this thread)?

    As I understand it, the strongest effect of El Nino on global temperatures is about 6 months after the El Nino starts.  That will be a couple of months from now.  If that holds for this El Nino, next year will also be a new, hotter, record.  How long will we have to go to get a negative slope for the escalator graph after two record years in a row?

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  3. Michael sweet, that's easy.  The first year that the temperature is less than the latest record will be the start of a 'return to normal' or 'end of warming' or whatever their current catch-phrase will be.

    Just look at the artic.  After a record-breaking 2007 in 2008 they started talking about the 'recovery' ditto 2013 after the record 2012 mel5.  There's nothing too ridiculous for them to use to downplay global warming.

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  4. "I predict the annual temperature anomaly will be 0.674°C. This beats the prior record by 0.024°C. That is a big margin in terms of global temperatures."

    Have you got the standard deviation associated with each mean?  That might back up your last statement.

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  5. devobrun @5, NOAA lists the error margin for their global temperature series as being 0.1 C, so I do not think Abraham's claim is justified.

    Interestingly, poking around with the data I find that 9 other years are statistical ties with Abraham's projected temperature.  They are blolded in the list below.  You will also notice from taht list that 16 of the last 17 years (including 2014) are ranked in the top 17 hottest years out of 135, and all are in the top 20.

    NOAA temperatures since 1998.  2014 temperature projected.  Bolded values are a "statistical tie with the projected value for 2014.  Rankings are for the full 135 year record.


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    Moderator Response:

    [RH] Converted html to image.

  6. I apologize for the blank space above the table in my prior post.  I have no idea why it is there, or how to fix it as it does not show in the html code.

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    Moderator Response:

    [RH] All fixed! :-)

  7. RH, thanks!

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  8. John,

    Some minor clarification of the references to the potential El Nino may be in order.

    The NOAA ONI records that are used to evaluate El Nino/La Nina (see here), do indeed Red Highlight sets of 5 or more consecutive 3 month averages being 0.5 C above the baseline 30 year average. They are noteable warm events. Until the 5 consecutive values have occured there is no highlighting. So what is imminent is the first value of 0.5 C or warmer. That is indeed the threshhold for an El Nino, but to be on the record as an El Nino there will need to be 4 more consecutive 0.5 C or warmer values.

    The earlier reference in the article to El NIno is consistent with the above, but the later comment

    "Interestingly, we are currently close to an El Niño, and if current patterns continue for a few weeks, an official El Niño will be announced."

    should be clarified to be the start of the potential 5 consecutive values that would constitute a significant warm ONI event or noteable El Nino event.

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  9. John,

    I refreshed my NOAA ONI webpage and see that it already shows the most recent 3-month average SON 2014 to be 0.5 C. So the El Nino ONI condition has initially reappeared for the first time since the two consecutive values in 2012 (0.5C in ASO and 0.6C in SON).

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  10. Thank you Tom, but I would like John to address the statement that 0.024 degrees is a "big margin in terms of global temperatures".

    Assuming that your data is correct, Tom......what is John's reasoning for his statement? 

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  11. devobrun...  Dr. Abraham is at the AGU conference in SF now, right after returning from Africa where he's been doing humanitarian work. You might be waiting a while for a response.

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  12. devobrun @11, I've looked another way in which "0.024 C" might be considered a big margin by comparing with the mean margin of new global temperature records.  As it turns out, that mean is 0.037 C, and the median is 0.029 C, so even on that basis it is not a large margin.  Indeed, it would represent the 15th smallest increase in the record out of 22 such increases.

    Interestingly, only one new record in the full 135 year record represented a statistically significant increase over the prior record - 1998.  Indeed, on average, only the fourth new record after any given record differs from it statistically.  Based on that, we would not expect 2014 to be statistically distinguishable from 1998 (which it is not projected to be), but do expect it to be statistically distinguishable to the prior record year to 1998 (ie, 1997).  As 1997 had an anomaly of 0.514 C, that is almost guarantteeed.

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  13. GISS always discusses their error and if the difference between the current year and other years is significant.  Once we reach January this data will be readily available.  GISS often says years are tied because the difference is not significant. Hansen 2010 claims on page 16 that their standard deviation = 0.025 between close years.  They claim two years are different if they are 1 standard deviation or more separate.  This is very close to the .024 in the  OP.  We will have to see what the data ends up being. 

    Tom: your link to NOAA does not work in my computer.  

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  14. michael sweet, try here

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  15. Isn't this cherry picking in the same way we accuse contrarians of doing so - picking an individual temperature series which supports a particular narrative. There are multiple datasets out there which do not agree that 2014 will be the warmest on record - that should be considered here.

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  16. greenman has drawn attention to the Gaurdian version of this post, as well as providing more information from

    In the comments, omnologos (of illfame), attempts to suggest the "uncertainty was 10 times bigger" than the projected margin in a 2008 paper about the NCDC temperature index.   He appears, however, to be citing the mean uncertainty for individual station records (0.2 C standard error) rather than the mean uncertainty for the global mean temperature record (0.03 C standard error over the period 1951-2000, see Table 5).  I draw attention to this because that mean value represents a smaller error than that I cited above.  That may be partly due to the additional months data, but may also be partly due to there being more temperature stations in the period prior to 2000.

    I also draw attention to it because I am unable to comment on greenman's site due to third party registration reqirements (sorry, just not going to sign up to twitter to comment at another site).  Somebody not so restricted may wish to draw attention to omnologos's error.

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  17. Tom,

    Several factors affect the error over short time periods (like the time since the last three record temperatures).  The short time is not affected much by urban heat island effects while the longer period is.  Recent time periods have more stations and better coverage .  Both these factors make the error smaller for the recent time period than for the entire record.

    We have the additional larger error that the temperature record we are discussing is incomplete.  After the final numbers are released it will be easier to compare several records (as Robert suggested) and the actual magnitude of the difference will be clear.

    Robert: can you give us a hint what the satelite kriged (sp?) data might look like for the year? 

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  18. Tom Curtis, Regarding the table of data @ 6,

    Though the variation of temperature values of the highlighted years indicate 2014 does not appear to be 'statistically significantly warmer', when you review the NOAA ONI values (here) for the period preceding the years highlighted it is clear that there is a statistically significant factor. 

    The El Nino bump of global average surface temperature clearly occurs shortly after the ONI indicates a warm event on the Tropical Pacific Ocean surface. Reviewing the magnitude of warm values in the ONI for the years of the highlighted 'warm' global average surface temperature it is possible to see the significance of 2014 being in the top group (and being number 1).

    1998 was the result of the most significant ONI set of July to June values for that set of years. It was clearly a massive ONI warm anomaly, resulting in a massive surface temperature anomaly. The other highlighted years also have more significant warm ONI values related to them than 2014, with the possible exception of 2013 which also stands out as a very warm year without a significant El Nino bump.

    Of course the ONI by itself is not what results in a temporarily warmer global average surface temperature. The integration and interaction of the ONI with the SOI combine to create the ENSO. Reviewing the SOI (here) the relationship between the SOI the ONI and global average is also clear. And there is also the dimming effect of volcanic aerosols which were also very low in 1998 compared to more recent years.

    So, more things considered, the 2014 global average surface temperature being the warmest so far does appear to be quite significant, perhaps even 'statistically very significant'.

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  19. robert way @16.

    It's not really cherry-picking as it's not just the NOAA (NCDC) that is set for the hottest year on record. The Jan-Nov NASA GISS average is also above the hottest calendar year on record, as is the HadCRUT4 Jan-Oct average. Likely BEST will show similarly.

    The satellite records, UAH & RSS, wobble far more with ENSO so the 'warmest year' is more to do with the size of El Ninos than rising global temperature. And today we remain without an El Nino, which is added reason for considering the surface temperatures worthy of note.

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  20. Why the focus on whether a single year is greater than the previous year? That seems to be returning to the notion of some sort of monotonic increasing curve as the fundamental proof or disproof of warming.

    Neither a healthy nor statistically sensible way to go IMO, anyway.

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  21. jgnflnd,

    I'm not sure I understand the point you are trying to make. Please clarify where you see a 'focus' on one year being warmer than the previous year in this post and comment set.

    There is mention about this year being the warmest in many data sets of global average surface temperature that start in the 1800s. And there is mention that if El Nino strengthens then 2015 will be even warmer. However, those have been presented as evidemce that the trend of global warming has not slowed.

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