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Climate data from air, land, sea and ice in 2013 reflect trends of a warming planet

Posted on 18 July 2014 by John Hartz

This article is a reprint of a news release posted by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) on July 17, 2014.

Increases in temperature, sea level and CO2 observed; Southern Hemisphere warmth and Super Typhoon Haiyan among year’s most notable events

In 2013, the vast majority of worldwide climate indicators—greenhouse gases, sea levels, global temperatures, etc.—continued to reflect trends of a warmer planet, according to the indicators assessed in the State of the Climate in 2013 report, released online today by the American Meteorological Society.

State of the Climate 2013

Scientists from NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C., served as the lead editors of the report, which was compiled by 425 scientists from 57 countries around the world (highlightsvisualsfull report). It provides a detailed update on global climate indicators, notable weather events, and other data collected by environmental monitoring stations and instruments on air, land, sea, and ice.

“These findings reinforce what scientists for decades have observed: that our planet is becoming a warmer place,” said NOAA Administrator Kathryn Sullivan, Ph.D. “This report provides the foundational information we need to develop tools and services for communities, business, and nations to prepare for, and build resilience to, the impacts of climate change.”

The report uses dozens of climate indicators to track patterns, changes, and trends of the global climate system, including greenhouse gases; temperatures throughout the atmosphere, ocean, and land; cloud cover; sea level; ocean salinity; sea ice extent; and snow cover. These indicators often reflect many thousands of measurements from multiple independent datasets. The report also details cases of unusual and extreme regional events, such as Super Typhoon Haiyan, which devastated portions of Southeast Asia in November 2013.


  • Greenhouse gases continued to climb: Major greenhouse gas concentrations, including carbon dioxide (CO2), methane and nitrous oxide, continued to rise during 2013, once again reaching historic high values. Atmospheric CO2 concentrations increased by 2.8 ppm in 2013, reaching a global average of 395.3 ppm for the year. At the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii, the daily concentration of CO2 exceeded 400 ppm on May 9 for the first time since measurements began at the site in 1958. This milestone follows observational sites in the Arctic that observed this CO2threshold of 400 ppm in spring 2012.

  • Warm temperature trends continued near the Earth’s surface: Four major independent datasets show 2013 was among the warmest years on record, ranking between second and sixth depending upon the dataset used. In the Southern Hemisphere, Australia observed its warmest year on record, while Argentina had its second warmest and New Zealand its third warmest. 

  • Sea surface temperatures increased: Four independent datasets indicate that the globally averaged sea surface temperature for 2013 was among the 10 warmest on record. El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO)-neutral conditions in the eastern central Pacific Ocean and a negative Pacific decadal oscillation pattern in the North Pacific. The North Pacific was record warm for 2013.

  • Sea level continued to rise: Global mean sea level continued to rise during 2013, on pace with a trend of 3.2 ± 0.4 mm per year over the past two decades. 

  • The Arctic continued to warm; sea ice extent remained low: The Arctic observed its seventh warmest year since records began in the early 20th century. Record high temperatures were measured at 20-meter depth at permafrost stations in Alaska. Arctic sea ice extent was the sixth lowest since satellite observations began in 1979. All seven lowest sea ice extents on record have occurred in the past seven years.

  • Antarctic sea ice extent reached record high for second year in a row; South Pole station set record high temperature: The Antarctic maximum sea ice extent reached a record high of 7.56 million square miles on October 1. This is 0.7 percent higher than the previous record high extent of 7.51 million square miles that occurred in 2012 and 8.6 percent higher than the record low maximum sea ice extent of 6.96 million square miles that occurred in 1986. Near the end of the year, the South Pole had its highest annual temperature since records began in 1957.

  • Tropical cyclones near average overall / Historic Super Typhoon: The number of tropical cyclones during 2013 was slightly above average, with a total of 94 storms, in comparison to the 1981-2010 average of 89. The North Atlantic Basin had its quietest season since 1994. However, in the Western North Pacific Basin, Super Typhoon Haiyan – the deadliest cyclone of 2013 – had the highest wind speed ever assigned to a tropical cyclone, with one-minute sustained winds estimated to be 196 miles per hour.

State of the Climate in 2013 is the 24th edition in a peer-reviewed series published annually as a special supplement to the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society. The journal makes the full report openly available online.

"State of the Climate is vital to documenting the world's climate," said Dr. Keith Seitter, AMS Executive Director. "AMS members in all parts of the world contribute to this NOAA-led effort to give the public a detailed scientific snapshot of what's happening in our world and builds on prior reports we've published."

NOAA’s mission is to understand and predict changes in the Earth's environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and to conserve and manage our coastal and marine resources. Join us on FacebookTwitterInstagram and our other social media channels

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Comments 1 to 20:

  1. Not sure how to read this.

    "Near the end of the year, the South Pole had its highest annual temperature since records began in 1957."

    I'll get stuck into the report later in the day.

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  2. "highest wind speed ever assigned to a tropical cyclone, with one-minute sustained winds estimated to be 196 miles per hour"


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  3. I'd like to see Antarctic ice reported a bit more comprehensively; sea ice by itself isn't very informative and can actually be misleading if it's ups  are dwarfed by downs from loss of land ice.

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  4. Hi Ken,

    Antarctic sea ice has been receiving more interest as a relatively flat trend has grown to a (statistically significant) rising trend for ice cover. NSIDC has been featuring it more of late in their sea ce page. Eg -

    Antarctica’s positive trend in sea ice extent (halfway down the page)

    Global sea ice for the full period (1979 - 2014) has declined. The Arctic has lost a lot more than the Antarctic has gained.

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  5. Hold the press!

    "New research suggests that Antarctic sea ice may not be expanding as fast as previously thought. A team of scientists say much of the increase measured for Southern Hemisphere sea ice could be due to a processing error in the satellite data. The findings are published today in The Cryosphere, a journal of the European Geosciences Union (EGU)."

    Read more at:

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  6. I wonder if the supposed step-change applies to Arctic sea ice data also.

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  7. John Hartz Looking at the figure in the article you have mentioned the step change is about 200,000 sqare kilometers.  Tamino at Open MInd has critiqued the paper to which you refer and concludes that the increase in Antarctic sea ice is statistically significant (

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  8. Ashton - The paper indicates that the magnitude of the increase may be exaggerated, not that Antarctic sea ice hasn't increased.  

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  9. Rob Painting @8 The authors wrote this in their Abstract:

      “The results of this analysis raise the possibility that this expansion may be a spurious artifact of an error in the satellite observations, and that the actual Antarctic sea ice cover may not be expanding at all".

    Agreed they don't say categorically Antarctic sea ice hasn't expanded but they certainly intimate it may well not have done.

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  10. Ashton - where does your quoted text come from? The last part of the sentence, after the comma, doesn't appear in the abstract. 

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  11. It was in the piece from Tamino for which I gave the URL in 7 above.  It is  I checked the abstract at Cryosphere ( and agree with you.  As the paper critiqued by Tamino was a pre-release obviously the final words were thought not appropriate. Also I note that the words "raise the possibility that this expansion may be a spurious artifact of an error in the satellite observations"  are modified to read "much of this expansion".  I should have but didn't, check the final version and apologise for that.  However the conclusion from Tamino is that the "increase in Antarctic sea ice cover is robust"

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  12. Barry - Over the years a variety of different algorithms (not just bootstrap) have been applied to data from a variety of different satellites. By way of example see:

    I don't recall a similar debate over an Arctic sea ice "step change", but changes have certainly happened from time to time. See for example "old" DMI versus "new" DMI extent.

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  13. Ashton - Yes, perhaps it was in the original text and later omitted. Rightly so, there are other data which suggest a robust increase in the Antarctic sea ice even though the Earth is very obviously warming.

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  14. Barry @ 4

    With a counter intuitive increase in winter maximum for Antarctica in a warming world, it seems that there is something to be gained by giving some comparisons with overall changes to Antarctic ice. In order to undercut the opportunities from that for climate science deniers and obstructionists creating false perceptions it seems to me that some perspective could be gained by looking at land ice and sea ice side by side, both qualitively (seasonal vs permanent) and quantitively. How does this periodic, winter only increase in sea ice look alongside the estimates of 160 billion tonnes a year of land ice being lost without being replaced? Anyone know how much mass that winter sea ice increase comes to?

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  15. Ken in Oz - That's a very good point. I think you will find the comparison quite mindboggling. I'll work on a post, although given the enormous disparity I'm not sure how to demonstrate it graphically.

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  16. Rob @15 - I look forward to it.

    As an aside, I have had an ongoing wish for improved graphical demonstration more broadly. Perhaps out of naivete, I keep imagining animated graphs progressing through various time periods,  with a whole lot of variables/indicators being shown individually as well as together, and additively as well - some kind of woodfortrees on steroids, like 'here's global heat content and surface air temperatures, here's surface air temperatures with sea surface temperatures, with ENSO and with AO, milankovic cycle, aerosols, albedo changes.  etc.' ie visually revealing real world connections and contributions where they exist or lack of them where they don't. Ultimately we get an additive 'here, with everything we know about!'

    Needless to say that would be a mammoth undertaking; I'm not holding my breath!

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  17. Ken,

    Have you seen Nick Stokes Climate Plotter?

    My main computer is down so facts and figures aren't to hand, but of glaciers, sea ice and land ice, only Antarctic sea ice and 15% of glaciers are increasing or unchanging. The Antarctic ice sheet, Greenland's, 85% of studied glaciers and Arctic sea ice are in decline.  That's a fairly hefty statement against those zeroing in on metrics bucking the trend.

    Jim Hunt,

    My question hinges on whether the same algorithm is used North and South for AR4/AR5 (per the differences mentioned in the article Ashton linked). I don't know the answer to that, hence my query. This wasn't discussed in the article or the paper.

    Here's the full paper.


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  18. Ken, we should probably add snow cover to the cryospheric list.

    Yes, it would be great for various purposes to have data for a multitude of metrics lined up and plottable/mappable in a super-app. But how long before contrarians start denouncing such a thing as a model? ;-)

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  19. I'm not sure what Rob Painting has in mind. Antarctic ice, in isolation, is being actively employed by climate action obstructionists to mislead and deceive so giving some perspective to that should be as prominent and clear as possible, with the hope and intention that mass media should notice and pick up on it. If that can be done in ways that link to the bigger picture without getting too bogged down in excessive details and complexities, then it will be more compelling. But the bigger picture, including snow cover, glaciers, ice shelves and ice sheets as well as sea ice, appears to tell a compelling story, if it can be communicated well. The balance between big picture vs clarity on details seems very important.

    I realise there are many excellent resources out there (including this site) and some may be already doing what I had in mind - with it not entirely clear in my own mind I suppose; what I've been thinking  being many things rather than one.

    It's making things as clear as possible to the widest possible audience that's needed, which probably takes it into the realm of video documentary rather than a revved up woodfortrees idea.  I would still like to see improved and more compelling visual graphical representations available in user friendly form. For example I would like to see relative contributions to global average temperatures of various forcings through time - with the individual contributions being shown in an "additive" or perhaps subtractive manner; a bit like a series of Foster and Rahmstorf style temperature evolution graphs but including as many forcings as possible, with an option to see what temperature evolution would be with and without specific ones to help communicate their relative contributions. The links between ocean oscillations like ENSO, sea surface temperatures and surface air temperatures would be another, showing how much they impact year to year temperatures, whilst revealing how they do not, by themselves, create a longer term trends. Sea levels and distribution of water over land masses, revealing and accounting for the seasonal and year to year variations we see. 

    I would note that I think that Dana's heat content metric is probably a superior  indicator of actual systemic change to the climate system than SAT's but it looks like we are stuck with global average surface air temperatures as the familiar, all inclusive metric of choice. As such, communicating the variations of the climate processes and phenomena that contribute to it's ups and downs, pauses and accelerations is important, if only to put to rest the false idea that climate science fails to take into account natural variations (in turn falsely suggestive that warming is down to those variations).

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  20. I should say that I don't think the most serious impediments to action on climate are down to failure to communication of the science. My wish list on that front isn't going to turn the tables.

    It may well be that more of the public demanding action is what overcomes the resisting inertia, but I think it's failures of politics, which sees people in positions of trust and responsibility putting their perceived role as advocates for agendas and interests that they support and that support them  - their 'side' -  ahead of their broader and longer term responsibilities that prevents such a public groundswell. As it prevents serious and effective policy action. 

    Rejection of mainstream science is given a stamp of respectability and authenticity when it comes from those with established power and influence - from those who are perceived to be essential to our own bit of economic security and prosperity. When the public is mislead and misinformed by those we should be able to trust that groundswell of public demand for appropriate action is inhibited. Better, more compelling communication that targets politicians and community leaders will lead to greater community acceptance of both the reality of the climate problem and of roads to solutions.

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