January 2012 the globe's 19th warmest
January 2012 was the globe's 19th warmest January since record keeping began in 1880, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) and NASA. January 2012 global land temperatures were the 26th warmest on record, and ocean temperatures were the 17th warmest on record. Global satellite-measured temperatures for the lowest 8 km of the atmosphere were colder than average, the 9th or 14th coldest in the 34-year record, according to Remote Sensing Systems and the University of Alabama Huntsville (UAH). Eurasia had its ninth largest snow cover extent in the 46-year period of record. Cold and snowy conditions dominated across central and Eastern Europe, as well as much of China. North America had its third smallest January snow cover extent, since much of the United States and southern Canada were warmer and drier than average, limiting snow cover. Wunderground's weather historian, Christopher C. Burt, has a comprehensive post on the notable weather events of January in his January 2012 Global Weather Extremes Summary.
Figure 1. Departure of temperature from average for January 2012. Image credit: National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) .
La Niña conditions continue
A borderline weak/moderate La Niña event continues in the equatorial Pacific, where sea surface temperatures were approximately 1.0°C below average during January and the the first half of February. The majority of the El Niño computer models predict that La Niña will weaken this spring, and will likely be gone by summer.
Arctic sea ice extent fourth lowest on record
Arctic sea ice extent was at its fourth lowest on record in January, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center. The growth rate for Arctic sea ice in January was the slowest in the satellite record. Satellite sea ice records date back to 1979.
No billion-dollar weather disasters in January
The globe had no billion-dollar weather disasters in January 2012, reported insurance broker Aon Benfield. The most expensive weather disaster of the month was winter storm Ulli in the UK and Scandanavia, which did $306 million in damage and killed three people. Severe winter weather in Japan killed at least 56 people in January, but damage estimates are not available yet. The most expensive U.S. disaster in January was the winter storm that hit Oregon and Washington January 17 - 22, causing major flooding on several Oregon rivers. The only month during the two-year period 2010 - 2011 without a billion-dollar weather disaster was March 2011, so last month's relatively quiet weather comes as a welcome relief.
The Tuesday release of leaked documents from a non-profit group active in attacking climate change science is creating a ruckus in the blogosphere, as reported by the New York Times. I'll have more to say on this Friday. Also, I'll have an update on a possible Saturday severe weather outbreak over the Southeast U.S.