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October 2014: Earth's Third Consecutive Warmest Month on Record

By: Dr. Jeff Masters, 12:42 PM GMT on November 21, 2014

October 2014 was the warmest October on record, and the year-to-date-period January - October was Earth's warmest such period since record keeping began in 1880, said NOAA's National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) on Thursday. NOAA also rated the past 12 months--November 2013 through October 2014--as the warmest consecutive 12-month period among all months since records began in 1880. "It is becoming pretty clear that 2014 will end up as the warmest year on record," said Deke Arndt, climate monitoring chief for NCDC in an interview with Associated Press. NASA also rated October 2014 as the warmest October on record, tied with 2005. October is the fifth month of 2014 ranked by NOAA as the warmest on record; May, June, August and September 2014 were also the warmest such months on record, and April 2014 was the second warmest April on record. Global ocean temperatures during October 2014 were the warmest on record. This marks the sixth month in a row (beginning in May 2014) that the global ocean temperature broke its monthly temperature record. Global land temperatures in October 2014 were the 5th warmest on record. Global satellite-measured temperatures in October 2014 for the lowest 8 km of the atmosphere were the 9th or 1st warmest in the 36-year record, according to Remote Sensing Systems and the University of Alabama Huntsville (UAH), respectively.

Figure 1. Departure of temperature from average for October 2014, the warmest October for the globe since record keeping began in 1880. Record warmth in much of southern South America and large parts of southern and western Australia contributed to the record high average land surface temperature observed during October in the Southern Hemisphere. In the Northern Hemisphere, record warmth was also observed in parts of southern Europe, the western coastal regions of the United States, and much of Far East Russia. On the other hand, parts of central Siberia observed temperatures 4 - 5°C (7 - 9°F) below average. Image credit: National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) .

Figure 2. Global departure of temperature from average for each year since 1880. The ten warmest years in Earth's recorded history are shown in red; after a relatively cool start, 2014 is now on pace the break the warmest year record set in 2010. Image credit: NOAA/NCDC.

One billion-dollar weather disaster in October 2014: India's Cyclone Hudhud
One billion-dollar weather-related disaster hit the Earth during October 2014: India's Cyclone Hudhud, according to the October 2014 Catastrophe Report from insurance broker Aon Benfield. This brings the global number of billion-dollar weather disasters for the first nine months of 2014 to 22. This is well behind the record-setting pace of 2013, which had 36 billion-dollar weather disasters by the end of October, and ended up with a record 41 by the end of the year.

Tropical Cyclone Hudhud powered ashore near Visakhapatnam in the Andhra Pradesh state of India on Sunday, October 12 as a Category 4 storm with sustained winds of 135 mph. With damage estimated at $11 billion, Hudhud was by far the most expensive tropical cyclone in India's history, and their third most expensive weather-related natural disaster, according to EM-DAT, the International Disaster Database. The previous most expensive Indian tropical cyclone was the October 28, 1999 Orissa Cyclone, which killed 9,843 people and did $2.5 billion in damage (1999 dollars.) India has had just one other billion-dollar tropical cyclone disaster, the November 8, 1996 cyclone that killed 708 and did $1.5 billion in damage (1996 dollars.) The staggering damage from Hudhud came just one month after India's most expensive natural disaster in its history--torrential monsoon rains of over 12" (305 mm) that lashed the India-Pakistan border region of Kashmir and Jammu Provinces on September 3 - 7, triggering devastating floods that swept through the mountainous region, killing over 600 people and doing $16+ billion in damage. India's previous most expensive natural disaster was the $11.6 billion (2014 dollars) in damage from the July 1993 monsoon floods.

Figure 3. The Vishakapatnam airport building that was damaged by Cyclone Hudhud in Vishakapatnam, India, as seen on Oct. 13, 2014. (AP Photo/Press Trust of India)

Hudhud's death toll was relatively low
Hudhud killed 68 people in India, but after dissipating, the storm's remains continued to the north and reached Nepal on October 14, unleashing a terrible snowstorm in the Himalayas that killed at least 43 people. According to Andrew Freedman of mashable.com, it was the worst disaster in the history of Nepal's mountain-climbing industry. However, the total death toll from Hudhud was extremely low in comparison to similar-strength cyclones that have hit the coast of India in recent decades. The October 28, 1999 Orissa Cyclone, which hit the coast just north of where Hudhud did, was also a Category 4 storm, but killed 9,843 people. Thankfully, due to improved warnings, civil defense efforts and awareness, the days of tropical cyclones killing 1000+ people in India are likely over.

El Niño conditions grow stronger
Remarkably, the record-warm global sea surface temperatures over the past six months have occurred in the absence of El Niño, a large-scale warming of the eastern and central equatorial Pacific Ocean that historically has been present whenever record global ocean temperatures have occurred. October 2014 officially featured neutral El Niño conditions in the equatorial Eastern Pacific, but sea surface temperatures rose to 0.5°C above average in mid-October in the so-called Niño 3.4 region (5°S - 5°N, 120°W - 170°W), where SSTs must be at least 0.5°C above average for five consecutive months (each month being a 3-month average) for an El Niño event to be declared. The warmth in the Niño 3.4 region has increased into mid-November, reaching 0.8°C above average this week. Most models predict El Niño will develop in late 2014 and continue into early 2015, and NOAA is continuing its El Niño Watch, giving a 58% chance of an El Niño developing this winter. If an El Niño does emerge, it is likely to be a weak event. Wunderblogger Steve Gregory took has a detailed look on the status of El Niño and the likely winter weather for December - February in his Thursday, November 20, 2014 post.

Arctic sea ice falls to 6th lowest October extent on record
Arctic sea ice extent during October 2014 was the 6th lowest in the 36-year satellite record and was similar to October 2013 levels, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC).

Most spectacular weather videos of October
Nicolaus Wegner's Stormscapes 2 video is the most impressive collection of time-lapse severe storm footage I've ever seen. His 7-minute time-lapse compilation of his May - September 2014 adventures in Wyoming, Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, and Colorado feature an impressive rainbow at 0:40, an incredible orange cumulonimbus at 4:00, a sequence of spectacular funnel clouds and tornadoes beginning at 5:10, and some stunning mammatus clouds at 6:04. Highly recommended.

Earth's temperature so far in 2014 has been the warmest ever recorded. This comes despite the absence of an El Niño event, which is usually required in order for a new temperature record to be set. If NOAA's predicted 58% chance of an El Niño event this winter verifies, we could easily have two consecutive warmest years on record--2014 and 2015. Opponents of climate action have pushed the idea that Earth's climate has not warmed since 1998, but that is false assertion that uses a cherry-picked year in an attempt to confuse people about the long-term climate warming that is occurring. Earth's climate is warming, and based on the evidence, more than 97% of climate scientists have concluded that humans are responsible. Climate change is already causing significant impacts to people and ecosystems, and these impacts will grow much more severe in the coming years. We can choose to take economically sensible steps to lessen the damage of climate change, and the cost of inaction is much higher than the cost of action.

Video 1. We used to set global cold records every few years, but that hasn't happened since 1909. Video commentary is available at Climate Central.

Jeff Masters

Climate Summaries

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