2006: sixth warmest year on record

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

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

The views of the author are his/her own and do not necessarily represent the position of The Weather Company or its parent, IBM.

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9:03 PM EST on December 15, 2006
Burning hydrocarbon fuel consumes O2 faster than it creates CO2, so it stands to reason that the level of free O2 in the atmosphere should be decreasing. This would be of concern for anyone who likes to breath. Does anyone have a link to recent data ( a graph, I'm lazy)on atmospheric O2? As far as historic levels of O2, there seems to be at least two different ideas:
Which one is right? At 35% O2, any fire would be spectacular!
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
94. Trouper415
12:30 AM GMT on December 16, 2006
Great debate all! Very well done!

I believe that Global Warming is very real. I do have a couple points to make.

One, to StSimonsIslandGuy, who says that he doesnt see any reductions in the short-mid term furture of c02 as superpower giants China and India have plans to build copious amounts of coal power plants, 1 every week in fact.

I would answer this as saying we have simply not seen the true wrath of Global Warming yet. There is a clause as to how bad the wrath will be as we could theroretically reduce our emissions quickly. However, if we dont, and it may happen, we wil truely see the wrath, and by that time we will be so darned scared, litterally shiting in our pants at the wrath of the once stable climate we took for granted throughout human history, that we will IMMEDIATELY switch over to fossil fuels; whatever the cost. For Global Warming is a unique and scary phenominom as it has the ability to wipe out entire economies, civilizations and the human race, including most life on Earth.

The next point is

About the fuel when crude runs out and we need to resort to the oil shales and coal as our main source of fuel...If oil runs out it would be extremely expensive to soley rely on oil shales as the extraction process is very difficult and you can only use a very small percentage of the shales. Secondly, I remember hearing that right now we have 500 years worth of coal. Lots. However if we were to run out of petroleum and switch to coal, we wouldn only have enough coal for around 75 years, definetly not sustainable for long perionds of time.

Third point

For those who do not believe Global Warming is human induced, the amount of damage we are doing to our oceananic ecosystems is unbelievable. At the current rate right now, due to over consumption and pollution in our waters from fossil fuels, in just 30-40 years, 100% of the viable fisheries will be gone = no more fish = hige economic loss + breakdown of ecosystems. Also because of coral bleaching due to pollution, up to 30% of the Worlds coral reefs will be gone in just 50 years. These trends were predicted long ago and continue at a faster rate today.


Why the hell are we waiting to use renewable energies. In the long run they are much more cost effective on houses and public facilities. One houshold can save hundreds or thousands of dollars a year on their energy using solar. Its clean, long lasting, boosts the economy ei: England who has over the past 25-30 years an ecomomy that has grown 41% with carbon emissions being reduced 15%. Renewables are also much safer as we will not have to fight for oil around the globe. And once on solar, we will be able to enhance our public works/services for our country as we will save huge amounts of money.

Great progress in California which is consistently the trend setter for economic growth.

Thanks all and keep up the great work. Lots of great hope for the future and our children.


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91. TayTay
1:50 AM GMT on December 16, 2006
I don't see any Thingamabobbercane.
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90. Alec
8:52 PM EST on December 15, 2006
I believe Aaron has told you CB to take your "tunnel rant" to your own blog on multiple occassions.......
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7:50 PM EST on December 15, 2006
Radiative Balance & CO2
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88. hurricane23
8:49 PM EST on December 15, 2006
Good evening,

Not sure if this has been posted yet in the blog but earlier today the NHC released there ernesto report.Over all the National hurricane center indeed kept ernesto as a cane as it maintained cat 1 strength for a brief period.Heavy rains were felt from hispaniola to parts of north carolina.Gale-force winds were also felt in a few areas.

Ernesto was the only real possible siginificant threat to the united states in 2006 but the mountains of cuba took a toll on the circulation and ended up being nothing of great significance.

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87. Patrap
7:50 PM CST on December 15, 2006
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81. pottery
9:14 PM AST on December 15, 2006
Where did everybody go ???
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74. pottery
8:32 PM AST on December 15, 2006
BRAVO !!!!!!!! this is a wonderful discussion. My view, stated earlier, is that its madness to continue generating CO2 at current levels, while we argue about whether or not CO2 is the culprit (that can be reduced ). Unfortunately I cant see us doing any meaningful reductions at all.......
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73. Patrap
6:37 PM CST on December 15, 2006
Translated..LOL! 6
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72. Patrap
6:37 PM CST on December 15, 2006
Tunnel Effect..3
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66. Patrap
6:17 PM CST on December 15, 2006
The Ol nail in the Coffin.
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64. Patrap
6:11 PM CST on December 15, 2006
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62. Skyepony
10:56 PM GMT on December 15, 2006
Ah Junkscience.com...

The term was further popularised by Fox News columnist Steven Milloy, who used it to attack the results of scientific research on global warming, ozone depletion, passive smoking and many other topics. The credibility of the term, and of Milloy's website junkscience.com, was damaged by revelations that Milloy had received extensive funding and direction from Phillip Morris, RJR Tobacco, and Exxon Mobil.[1][2][3]

Nice point Randrewl not only does being a vegaterian help make less CO2 it makes ya smarter.
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61. BahaHurican
6:38 PM EST on December 15, 2006
This is probably the most sensible thing anybody has had to say about the argument for a long time. I think opportunities for so-called "first world" countries to impact the global warming issue from a political perspective have basically faded. And most of the people who will be developing these resources will be using them themselves, to help reduce economic dependence outside their borders.

It should be interesting to see how the world evolves, especially weatherwise.
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59. BahaHurican
6:10 PM EST on December 15, 2006
I dunno about the thingermabobercane thingie.

Looks like whatever CoC there is is actually a low pressure centred south of the bulk of the convection (in between the Canaries and the Verdes, but west).

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58. BahaHurican
6:09 PM EST on December 15, 2006
Hey StSimons,

Long time no hear from . . .

What is your take on all the global warming stuff?
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57. stormchasher
6:09 PM EST on December 15, 2006
Heres a nice loop of itLink
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56. tropicfreak
6:07 PM EST on December 15, 2006
Stsimons come to my blog.
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53. WeArePennState
6:03 PM EST on December 15, 2006
More proof of the new Thingamabobbercane

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52. turtlehurricane
10:52 PM GMT on December 15, 2006
BTW, I updated the forecasts on

Florida Weather

Looks like a relatively tranquil time ahead.
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51. turtlehurricane
10:51 PM GMT on December 15, 2006
Interesting on the global climate data.
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50. philliesrock
5:51 PM EST on December 15, 2006
Thingamabobbercane revisited?

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48. BahaHurican
4:31 PM EST on December 15, 2006
Ernesto formed from a tropical wave that emerged from the west coast of Africa on 18
August and moved steadily but uneventfully westward across the tropical Atlantic during the following several days.

It was only "uneventfully" if you weren't reading the blog! lol
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47. Dodabear
4:35 PM EST on December 15, 2006
Patrap, Randrewl et. al. I think you might enjoy this junk science report at Fox news.
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