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State of the Climate Report: Warm and Warmer (except for eastern North America)

By: Bob Henson 8:51 PM GMT on July 17, 2015

Although the tropical Atlantic is heating up slightly with the appearance of a Cape Verde wave (see this morning’s tropical roundup post), we also have some toasty news on the national and global front. With our planet showing more and more symptoms of running a fever, the annual State of the Climate reports make for compelling lab results that confirm the diagnosis. This year’s State of the Climate report was released on Thursday as part of the July issue of the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society. Like a mini-IPCC assessment, this year’s annual report--compiled by NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information--involved 413 authors and 17 editors from 58 countries who reviewed and synthesized a vast body of data on what’s happened to our Earth system in the past year, from greenhouse gas increases to sea level rise.

The 2014 State of the Climate report makes it plain that last year was a landmark in global warming. The record high in globally averaged temperature (a mark almost certain to be topped in 2015) got plenty of press, but other records were set as well:

• Carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide—three of the most important human-produced greenhouse gases—all reached their highest global concentrations since records have been kept.

• More than 20 nations reported their warmest year on record, as did the continent of Europe. The only large land area with below-average temperatures for the year (apart from western Siberia) was eastern North America.

• Sea surface temperatures and global sea level both reached record highs, continuing the trends of recent years.

• The extent of summertime Arctic sea ice remained well below its 1980s – 1990s average, though the ice loss in 2014 was less dramatic than in several years of the past decade. Meanwhile, Antarctic sea ice set new monthly extent records in each month from April to November, and the single largest extent on record was observed on September 20. It’s important to note that this wintertime ice growth around Antarctica has much less effect on climate than the summertime loss in the Arctic, largely because the Arctic loss occurs when more sunshine has a chance to be absorbed by open water.

More highlights from the report can be found in a NOAA news release and in the report itself.

Warmest June nights on record for contiguous U.S.
NOAA’s summary of June climate, also released on Thursday, revealed that last month was the second warmest June across the 48 contiguous states, beaten only by June 1933. And nighttime didn’t offer much relief.

Figure 2. Daily minimum temperatures averaged across the contiguous U.S. for June soared well above the previous record, set in 2010, and more than 1°F above any other year in records extending back to 1895. Image credit: NOAA/NCEI.

Figure 3. State-by-state rankings of temperature (top) and precipitation (bottom) for June 2015. Image credit: NOAA/NCEI.

Averaged across the nation, last month saw the warmest minimum temperatures of any June on record (see Figure 2). In Cheyenne, Wyoming, each night during the entire month saw a low temperature above the norm. June’s balmy nights were largely a result of the cloudiness and rich low-level moisture that prevailed over much of the country, keeping lows from dipping to their usual values. In the western U.S., scorching days accompanied the warm nights: more than 150 western cities broke all-time record highs for June. The states of California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and Utah all notched their warmest Junes on record (Figure 3). This Climate Central analysis will show you how much your own state’s summer nights have warmed in the last few decades.

June was also very damp across much of the country (see Figure 2). The Midwestern triad of Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio all experienced their wettest Junes on record; Illinois had its all-time second-wettest month (9.30”, behind only the 9.62” of September 1926). The downpours put a damper on agriculture, with many plantings delayed or compromised. Up to 5 percent of Indiana’s corn and soybean production was lost in June. “We went from a well above-normal crop to a very discouraging, below-normal crop," said Purdue Extension economist Chris Hurt at a briefing on June 26. As of July 13, about a quarter of Indiana corn and soybean crops were rated as poor or very poor.

Figure 4. Cornfields across Jay County in eastern Indiana were doused with heavy rain during the week of June 22. Image credit: Purdue University Agricultural Communication photo/Darrin Pack.

Northeast stays relatively cool
Missing out on the heat in June were Michigan and northern New England, where temperatures ran well below average for the month. As one might expect with plenty of clouds and rain, some states had an unusually compressed temperature range. In Pennsylvania, June’s average daily highs were the 37th coolest on the record, but the daily lows were the 7th warmest. Areas northeast of Pennsylvania are finding it especially tough to warm up this year, even with all the winter snow long gone. The first half of 2015 was among the top 20 coldest January-to-June periods on record for New York and all the New England states. This month, temperatures are running cooler than average across most of the country east of the Rockies, in keeping with the warm-west/cool-east pattern that’s been so persistent for the past year-plus. Meanwhile, the Pacific states continue to roast, including California, with this year to date warmer than all previous Jan-Jun periods in California, Oregon, Washington, and Nevada (see Figure 5).

Figure 5. Average temperatures across California for the period January through June 2015 topped the previous record for the first half of the calendar year, which had been set in 2014. Image credit: NOAA/NCEI.

Heat and drought across the Caribbean into South Florida
Along with the Pacific states, Florida is also cooking: the year to date is the fourth warmest on record for the Sunshine State. In particular, South Florida and the Caribbean have been extremely hot and dry. It was the driest June in 81 years of recordkeeping in Stuart, Florida, and in 110 years of records at Coloso, Puerto Rico. Strict water rationing is now in effect across eastern Puerto Rico: in one location, water is turned off for 48 hours and then on for 24 hours. According to the NWS office in San Juan, El Niño tends to bring the north Caribbean ample moisture during the normally dry months of winter and spring, but below-average rainfall from May through November.

I’ll have a special report this weekend on progress in severe weather modeling and prediction. Jeff Masters and I will both be back on board next week. Have a great start to your weekend!

Bob Henson

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