2006: sixth warmest year on record

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 2:36 PM GMT on December 15, 2006

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The planet's high fever abated only slightly in 2006 compared to 2005, according to preliminary figures issued by the National Climatic Data Center on Thursday. Following the warmest year on record for the globe in 2005, the annual global temperature for 2006 is expected to be sixth warmest since record keeping began in 1880. The annual averaged global temperature was 0.52�C (+0.94�F) above normal, just 0.09�C below the record set in 2005. Very little of the globe was cooler than normal in 2006--only Siberia had temperatures more than 1� C cooler than average (Figure 1).


Figure 1. Temperature departures from normal for 2006, based on preliminary data from the National Climatic Data Center.

U.S. Temperatures
The 2006 annual average temperature for the contiguous United States (based on preliminary data) will likely be 2�F (1.1�C) above the 20th Century mean, which would make 2006 the third warmest year on record. Only 1998 and 1934 were warmer than 2006. Three months in 2006 (January, April and July) were either the warmest or second warmest on record. Only September and October were cooler than average. A quick look at the jet stream pattern for the remainder of 2006, as forecast by the GFS model, reveals a continuation of the abnormal warmth we've seen over most of the U.S. this month. There will be very few regions of the country experiencing a white Christmas this year.

European temperatures
The Meteorlogical Office of England announced yesterday that 2006 was the warmest year in England since record keeping began in 1659. The years 1990 and 1999 shared the record, previously. The weather this Fall has been the warmest ever recorded over most of western Europe. One UK newspaper trumpeted the headline yesterday, "The hottest year since 1659 spells global doom". I don't agree that the hottest year ever in one small country is evidence that global doom is approaching. However, the statistics of what has happened globally the past 30 years speak volumes. Including 2006, six of the seven warmest years on record have occurred since 2001 and the ten warmest years have occurred since 1995. The global average surface temperature has risen between 0.6�C and 0.7�C (1.1 - 1.3� F) since the start of the 20th Century, and the rate of increase since 1976 has been approximately three times faster than the mean for the past 100 years. If the rate of warming since 1976 (Figure 2)--0.55�C in 30 years--is sustained the remainder of this century, the Earth will be a full 2�C warmer in 2100 than it was in 1990. This amount of warming would be tremendously costly to society and highly damaging to many ecosystems.


Figure 2. Temperature departures from normal for 1880-2006. Source: National Climatic Data Center.

The globe is undeniably warming at rapid rate, and I wouldn't be at all surprised if 2007 surpasses the global temperature record set in 2005, since we are entering 2007 with a moderate El Ni�o event on our hands. El Ni�o conditions add a tremendous amount of heat to the Earth's surface, and the current El Ni�o--which is expected to last at least until May--should drive up global temperatures significantly. Global doom is not at hand, but the predictions by our best climate scientists of a 1.4 to 5.8�C increase in global temperatures between 1990 and 2100 are quite believable and need to be taken seriously.

Next week, I plan to talk about the not-so-cheerful study published in Geophysical Research Letters this week titled, Future abrupt reductions in the summer Arctic sea ice. A sudden and complete disintegration of the North Polar ice cap could happen by 2040, according to some computer model calculations.

Jeff Masters

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345. MargieKieper
7:42 PM CST on December 17, 2006
Taz,

There is a large warm water anomaly which is making its way to the surface as it moves east, and which will rise to the surface sometime around the first of the year. This will noticeably increase the SST anomalies east of 120W for a time after.

This is a solid moderate El Nino, but the chances of a significantly strong El Nino are diminishing. In a month the picture may look different, because the El Nino takes time to mature, and along the way, each month, are a number of factors which can either enhance or work against the El Nino.
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344. pottery
9:31 PM AST on December 17, 2006
Bappit, slash and burn works on certain soil types only. Vast areas of the Amazon, and areas of Trinidad, are beds of nutrient poor sands ( Silica actually ) and the forrest is sustained purely on the 4 " of nutrient that is in the leaf litter, along with the fungi and worms and bugs that turn this leaf litter back into useable nutrient in a matter of days. Areas here that have been cleared and burned have shown incredible resistance to being reforested, because there is simply no nutrient in the sand. 140 " of rain each year deals with that real good !
Member Since: October 24, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 24202
343. bappit
1:30 AM GMT on December 18, 2006
HEY I'm 11 n of the equator. Sure the seasons are important.

Can't argue with someone who is there. LOL! My comment is directed at the sea surface temperatures and the seemingly paradoxical cooling that occured last summer. A midwesterner might be surprised. :)
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342. ryang
9:32 PM AST on December 17, 2006
Micheal i just cannot post a link are image.HELP ME.
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341. ryang
9:30 PM AST on December 17, 2006
Link
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339. bappit
1:28 AM GMT on December 18, 2006
Pottery you should start a blog about that.

I second that emotion.
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338. pottery
9:23 PM AST on December 17, 2006
Hi Ryang. Its called Permaculture. Idealy, it is a system that maintains its own ballance through Bio diversity, and is very workable in tropical environments especialy.
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337. bappit
1:18 AM GMT on December 18, 2006
My apologies, Pottery. Of course, I was mainly thinking of the historical record.

Just curious. Would slash and burn be a more viable option when the landscape is less crowded with other people?

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335. pottery
9:18 PM AST on December 17, 2006
HEY I'm 11 n of the equator. Sure the seasons are important.
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334. ryang
9:19 PM AST on December 17, 2006
Pottery you should start a blog about that.
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333. pottery
9:16 PM AST on December 17, 2006
OK Taz, I got you....
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332. bappit
1:11 AM GMT on December 18, 2006
If the skies are clear and wind speeds are low, I would expect the tropical Atlantic to heat up. The question might be, why was it cooler than it is now in the first place?

Last summer strong trade winds cooled the Atlantic at the height of summer. I don't think the seasons are as important as one might think when you get close to the equator.
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331. Tazmanian
5:15 PM PST on December 17, 2006
seen like
El Nio is starting to die off a little
lol
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330. pottery
9:10 PM AST on December 17, 2006
Bappit, I'm involved with a group here ( Trinidad ) that is hosting a seminar for a week starting on the 5 th Jan. The purpose, to try to discourage slash and burn (still practiced ) in favour of a more sustainable system. We are pushing tree crops with short term crops between.
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328. Tazmanian
5:11 PM PST on December 17, 2006
like i said i this dont no this pary that El Nio stays around if it dos not then you no what i mean
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327. bappit
1:03 AM GMT on December 18, 2006
They used to burn the forests in the tropics in what was called slash and burn agriculture. It was on a small scale, though, and actually an efficient use of the nutrient poor tropical soils.

Forest fires are a part of the natural ecosystems in the American west. The seeds of some plants will not germinate unless exposed to a low intensity fire.

The record of CO2 concentrations in ice cores would take into account any such historical burning, though, which still leaves the hockey stick.

I don't think an increase like that could be good even if it does not lead to global warming. For instance, CO2 entering the oceans raises the ocean's pH. See this link.
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326. pottery
9:07 PM AST on December 17, 2006
Is the Atl sea temp showing an un-seasonal increase due to warmer waters coming off Greenland etc ?????????
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324. Tazmanian
5:07 PM PST on December 17, 2006
pottery dont no this hop that El Nio stays around
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323. pottery
9:00 PM AST on December 17, 2006
Tazmanian..Hi there. I've been trying to find out WHY are the Atl sea temp going up. Cant figure it out......
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322. bappit
12:52 AM GMT on December 18, 2006
Ramblerbob, thanks for your comments. A few cents from me:

we have no historical information to compare to.

I think a few hundred thousand years of history from ice cores is pretty solid info.

It's the natural cycles of the earth and sun that will ultimately determine the climate, not us!

Ironically, I think we all agree on that point. Solar radiation comes in, is reflected or absorbed then re-emitted at longer wavelengths. Liquid water, carbon dioxide and other gases like methane absorb some of the re-emitted radiation or it escapes, etc. This is all natural and not under the control of man. Once CO2, the most rapidly changing factor in the earth's heat budget, is released into the atmosphere, there is indeed little we can do about it.

China and India produce as much or more raw carbon output into the atmosphere and will at a much higher level than us in the future, and they are not even considered in the reduction equations.

Is this the motivation for arguing against the reality of global warming? Is that really what you want to say?
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320. pottery
8:58 PM AST on December 17, 2006
why would they burn the forrests????????
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319. Tazmanian
4:57 PM PST on December 17, 2006
eeeeeeeeeek! sea temps in the Atlantic are starting to go up wish it sould not be doing that in tell march


we could be looking at a lot hoter sea temps this comeing summer
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317. pottery
8:54 PM AST on December 17, 2006
cyclone, I cant imagine that a couple of thousand small cooking fires would constitute a real problem.......
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314. pottery
8:41 PM AST on December 17, 2006
Ramblerbob, seems to me you are taking this thing personnaly. The US is the largest producer of industry realted CO2 at the moment. Europe was the leader once. China and India may be the leaders in future. But to suggest that "if they can we can" makes no sense. The truth is we need to reduce...............and you can be the leader........
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313. ryang
8:37 PM AST on December 17, 2006
Hello
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312. Ramblerbob
12:37 AM GMT on December 18, 2006
It amazes me how much weight we put on so little time of record keeping in the scale of global history. The earth has warmed before and to a much higher level than currently observed or predicted,long,long before human beings were here. Has anyone considered what the effect of a miniscule increase in the output of the sun would have on the global climate? Can we even measure this accurately and of course even if we could, we have no historical information to compare to. Humans are not as able to change things as we think, and those who dislike our capitolistic societies would be quick to use this against us. China and India produce as much or more raw carbon output into the atmosphere and will at a much higher level than us in the future, and they are not even considered in the reduction equations. Check out the historical prehisotric records (in the many millions of years scale)on the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere there has been and ask yourself how that level was acheived without humans. It's the natural cycles of the earth and sun that will ultimately determine the climate, not us!
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311. pottery
8:33 PM AST on December 17, 2006
......a warming trend of Atlantic SST that is.
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310. pottery
8:26 PM AST on December 17, 2006
Skyepony..do you have a link for Atlantic currents that would lead me to checking the following:
Comparative flow rates- monthly / annually
SST temps vis-a-vis flow rates


there is a warming trend occuring now and to me ( and to michael stl who noted it earlier too ) thats not normal behaviour..........
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308. HIEXPRESS
7:24 PM EST on December 17, 2006
Patrap - The ISS was a lot lower in the sky for us than it was for you.
Member Since: October 13, 2005 Posts: 4 Comments: 2156
307. Patrap
5:52 PM CST on December 17, 2006
Just watched ISS and Discovery whizz overhead for 6 minutes .Was nice bright star traveling sw to Ne.Link
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306. HIEXPRESS
6:16 PM EST on December 17, 2006
It was a beach day in Central Florida today, 17 December! It was great. Bring on the GW.
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305. HIEXPRESS
6:14 PM EST on December 17, 2006
"I argue very well. Ask any of my remaining friends. I can win an argument on any topic, against any opponent. People know this, and steer clear of me at parties. Often, as a sign of their great respect, they don't even invite me." --Dave Barry
Member Since: October 13, 2005 Posts: 4 Comments: 2156
304. weatherboykris
10:49 PM GMT on December 17, 2006
The past few pages of comments are a prime example of why I stay out of global warming debates.I don't know that much about it,anyway.
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303. snowboy
9:48 PM GMT on December 17, 2006
BigBake, I admire your tenacity, but you need to do more research and reading and get up to speed on climate science if you want to participate in a meaningful discussion. Your mash of stray factoids stripped of any context, half-baked theories that have little to do with the real world, and wild distractions (like the tunnels) don't add up to a hill of beans.

It is true that C02 levels were much higher than now in the distant past, as so nicely shown on your graph. Do you know why? Did you bother to try to find out why? The reason CO2 levels were much then is because the sun's energy output was much lower. The planet's biota, which have a vested interested in keeping the planet at liveable temperatures, exert considerable control over CO2 levels. Back then, a stronger greenhouse effecrt was needed, and through natural selection and various feedback loops CO2 levels were kept higher.

As the sun has warmed over time, CO2 levels (again under the influence of the planet's biota) have come down because otherwise the planet would start to bake. So what do we humans do? We drive up the CO2 levels and at the same time wreak havoc on every natural system that could take up some of that CO2. Our planet is going to hell in a handbasket, our climate is inexorably warming (with by far the worst to come), and all you can think of doing is label people who are concerned about global warming as "evil"??!!!

Give it a break. Or better yet, do some homework, learn some atmospheric science, and then come back with a science-based argument on the issue.

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302. TayTay
7:58 PM GMT on December 17, 2006
Just a low pressure system, not a 'thingamabobber cane'.

301. BahaHurican
2:00 PM EST on December 17, 2006
I don't think anyone will even try to deny that there is a warming trend going on. I don't think people will even deny that human lifestyles and consumption of carbon-based fuels are contributing to the trend.

What seems to be crucial to the debate is how much value is placed on the apparently small percentage of heat-releasing / greenhouse-gas-emitting begin done by people. Based on what I have read so far, most people who decry the need for any changes in current policy are of the view that man's contribution to the warming trend is too minute to play a role in potentially disasterous effects in the future.

Given the evidence we have seen here showing how minute changes in seemingly unrelated variables can have a massive impact on weather and climate, I am not so sure that is a viable stand. Consider the fact that an anomaly of only 2 or 3 degrees in temperature, measured as ENSO, can mean droughts for some areas and floods for others. Consider also how the difference of mere degrees difference in the path of hurricanes can impact their longjevity, speed, and strength. (The two recent hurricanes to impact the Philippines are an excellent example. Ernesto is another good one.) This in turn plays a massive role in what effects they will have on humans in their path.

Can we be certain what effects the relatively "minor" contributions of man to global warming will be? Or should we be playing it safe?


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300. weatherboykris
7:11 PM GMT on December 17, 2006
SSTS still above average near Philipines
Link
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299. indigenous
6:54 PM GMT on December 17, 2006
Thanks everyone for writing really interesting climate information and news. It's fascinating to read, but I think there's a few trillion dollars' worth of easy to get to energy in the ground and someone would just love to sell it to us! So it's a waiting game, I think.
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298. BahaHurican
1:47 PM EST on December 17, 2006
EUMETSAT also provides a very interesting view of two low pressure systems with high dust values, one moving north towards Italy from the Sahara and the other over Iran/Iraq. In the lower right u can see the edges of the little TD that is in the Indian ocean.
Member Since: October 25, 2005 Posts: 19 Comments: 21864
297. BahaHurican
1:46 PM EST on December 17, 2006
It sure does look like it's going to get run over by that vigourous-looking low that's headed for Europe . . .
Member Since: October 25, 2005 Posts: 19 Comments: 21864

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Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.

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