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Monday, February 15, 2016

Hottest January on record, with El Niño years comparison

Sou | 3:01 PM Go to the first of 12 comments. Add a comment

Yes, there's another hottest on record, with January data from GISS, NASA. This month is 1.13 °C (2.03 °F) hotter than the 1951 to 1980 average. This month's anomaly is 1.83 °C or 3.29 °F higher than that of than the coldest January on record, which itself was 107 years ago in 1909. Below is a monthly chart, showing all months from January 1880 through to January 2016:

Figure 1 | Monthly global mean surface temperature 1880 to January 2016. Data source: GISS NASA
Some comparisons with January 2016 at 1.13 °C above the 1951-1980 mean:
  • The previous highest monthly anomaly was December 2015 at 1.11 °C above the 1951-1980.
  • The previous hottest January was January 2007, at 0.95 °C above the 1951-1980 mean.
  • The coldest January on record was in 1909, at 0.7 °C below the 1951-1980 mean.
  • Each of the past four months, from October 2015, have had an anomaly greater than 1 °C.
  • The average anomaly for the past 12 months, from February 2015 to January 2016 is 0.89 °C.

In January the world was probably around 1.4 °C above the pre-industrial average global temperature - by my rough estimate.

It's too soon to start plotting the year to date progression. Instead here is a chart just for all the Januarys going back to 1880. This month is 0.18 °C (0.32 °F) warmer than the previous hottest January (2007) and 1.83 °C (3.29 °F) hotter than the coldest January in the record (1909).

Figure 2 | January only - global mean surface temperature January 1880 to January 2016. Data source: GISS NASA

Some of the extra heat would be because of the current El Niño. Below is the chart showing how El Niño is affecting the global surface temperature compared with two previous El Niños. This year the surface as a whole is way hotter than the super El Niño of 1997-98.

Figure 3 | Global mean surface temperature selected El Niño years. Data source: GISS NASA

The reason for it being so much hotter is probably because the biggest anomalies are in the Arctic (and around Kazakhstan, Afghanistan I think- to the northwest of India/Pakistan), not the tropics. Below is a map from NASA for anomalies in January 2016. You'll probably also notice the legend down the bottom - how it's now much greater above zero than below. (Zero is the 1951-1980 average.)

Figure 4 | Anomaly vs 1951-1980 mean January 2016. Gray areas signify missing data. Ocean data are not used over land nor within 100km of a reporting land station. Source: GISS NASA

GISS also provides a zonal chart, which demonstrates just how hot it is in the Arctic. It's around 7.5 °C ( 13.5°F) above the 1951-1980 mean - and that's average!

Figure 5 | Zonal anomalies January 2016. Source: GISS NASA

There's not much more to add at this time except, as always, feel free to use or repost the charts.


  1. Yeah but we are on the upward side of an interglacial and remember there's all that warming emitted from beneath the Thermocline.

    1. "we are on the upward side of an interglacial"

      Not, we're not.

    2. Sorry Rocky it was a lame inside joke. I should have sarc tagged it.

  2. The Arctic sea ice extent is looking sick. The Antarctic sea ice extent is below average. What I am surprised about is how unusually warm the Tasman Sea looks.

    1. Indeed. Arctic sea-ice is looking really bad:

    2. There's no way we can be seeing a peak right now??? is there???

      Certainly on this side of the arctic (e.g., Atlantic) we are getting one nor'easter after another, after another, after another--one tonight even--bringing warm air up the warm mid-Atlantic to the northern and eastern areas of the Atlantic in the far north (e.g., Svalbard).

      Don't know about the rest of the Arctic.

    3. jgnfld, check out : "temperature anomaly for the Arctic as a whole of 2.4°C or 4.32°F above what was common in 1979-2000."
      Check out this image

  3. Sou- Is there a typo in Figure 2? The record is labeled as "Jan 2015", not 2016.

    1. Thanks, Phil. Yes that was a typo. Fixed now.

  4. Another thing that is becoming obvious is the increase in moisture in all wet storms. Weather prediction has not caught up with this. We all (except deniers) know about increased energy, but lately storms are getting pretty wild as to wet as well.

  5. That third graph! Holy shit!

    Then add in the words thermal inertia and their implications remembering that this is the result of what we've already emitted (going from 280 pmm to 400 pmm) and that we've kept on emitting more since and that's going to catch up with us in years to come and ...yikes!

    Yes, the El Nino is boosting the signal - just as the La Nina's before it hid it. The temperatures won't be going down anytime soon although the record extremes especially of heat and horror will. Seriously scary stuff. :-(

    Here via Bad Astronomy blog reminder but love your blog and work HotWhopper.


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