Earth Had Its Fifth Warmest November; 2018 a Lock for 4th Warmest Year on Record

December 18, 2018, 5:03 PM EST

Above: A fallen power line is seen on top of burnt-out vehicles on the side of the road in Paradise, California, after the Camp Fire tore through the area on November 10, 2018. Note the melted metal from the cars puddled on the road. The fire was Earth’s deadliest weather-related disaster of November 2018, with 86 fatalities. Image credit: JOSH EDELSON/AFP/Getty Images.

November 2018 was tied for being the planet's fifth-warmest November since record keeping began in 1880, said NOAA's National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI) on Tuesday. The only warmer Novembers came in 2015, 2013, 2010, and 2017. NASA also rated November 2018 as tied for fifth-warmest. Minor differences in rankings between NASA and NOAA can arise because of how they handle data-sparse regions such as the Arctic, where few surface weather stations exist.

Global ocean temperatures during November 2018 were the second warmest on record, and land temperatures were the sixteenth warmest on record, according to NOAA. Satellite-measured temperatures for the lowest 8 km of the atmosphere were the fourth warmest in the 40-year record according to the University of Alabama Huntsville (UAH) and RSS.

Departure of temperature from average
Figure 1. Departure of temperature from average for Novembers from 1880 to 2018; this year’s November was tied for fifth warmest on record. Image credit: National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI).
Departure of temperature from average
Figure 2. Regional departures from average temperature for November 2018. The most notable land-based temperature departures from average during November 2018 were present across the Northern Hemisphere, with much of Alaska, western Canada, Scandinavia and parts of eastern Russia with temperatures that were 3.0°C (5.4°F) above average or higher. Meanwhile, much of the contiguous U.S. and central and eastern Canada, and parts of northern and central Asia, had temperature departures from average that were 2.0°C (3.6°F) below average or cooler. Image credit: National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI).

2018 expected to be the fourth warmest year on record

The year-to-date period of January - November ranked as the fourth warmest such period on record, and 2018 is very likely to be the fourth warmest year on record, NOAA said. This means that the five warmest years on record globally will be the last five years—2014 through 2018. If an El Niño event develops and extends into early 2019, as predicted, it is likely that 2019 will end up even warmer than 2018.

The boreal fall of 2018 ranked as the second warmest September-to-November period on record, globally.

Two billion-dollar weather disasters in November 2018

Two billion-dollar weather-related disasters hit the Earth last month, according to the November 2018 Catastrophe Report from insurance broker Aon: the Camp Fire in northern California, and the Woolsey Fire in southern California. By the end of November, the planet had suffered 37 billion-dollar weather disasters, which ranks as the third highest yearly total since 1990, according to Aon. The only years with more were 2010 and 2013, which both had 41. Here are the billion-dollar weather disasters so far in 2018:

  1. Hurricane Michael, Southeast U.S., 10/10 – 10/12, $15+ billion, 45 killed
  2. Hurricane Florence, Southeast, Mid-Atlantic U.S., 9/14 – 9/19, $10-15 billion, 53 killed
  3. Wildfire, California Camp Fire, 11/8 – 11/25, $10+ billion, 86 killed
  4. Drought, Northern and Central Europe, 5/1 – 8/31, $7.5 billion, 0 killed
  5. Flooding, Japan, 7/5 – 7/8, $7 billion, 230 killed
  6. Flooding, North China, 7/1 – 9/30, $5.75 billion, 50 killed
  7. Flooding, India, 8/7 – 8/20, $5.5 billion, 500 killed
  8. Typhoon Rumbia, 8/16 – 8/18, $4.3 billion, 22 killed
  9. Drought, Argentina and Uruguay, 1/1 – 3/31, $3.9 billion, 0 killed
  10. Severe Weather, Italy, 10/28 – 11/04, $3.7 billion, 29 killed
  11. Drought, China, 6/1 – 10/31, $3.55 billion, 0 killed
  12. Winter Weather, China, 4/2 – 4/18, $3.4 billion, 0 killed
  13. Drought, U.S., 1/1 – 12/31, $3 billion, 0 killed
  14. Winter Storm Friederike, Western & Central Europe, 1/18, $2.75 billion, 13 killed
  15. Severe Weather, Rockies, Plains, Midwest, Northeast U.S., 6/17 – 6/21, $2.4 billion, 3 killed
  16. Winter Storm Riley, Eastern U.S., 3/1 – 3/3, $2.3 billion, 9 killed
  17. Typhoon Mangkhut, China, Hong Kong, Philippines, 9/15 – 9/18, $2+ billion, 102 killed
  18. Typhoon Jebi, Japan, 9/4 – 9/5, $2+ billion, 17 killed
  19. Wildfire, California Woolsey Fire, 11/8 – 11/21, $2+ billion, 3 killed
  20. Flooding, South China, Vietnam, 7/1 – 9/30, $2 billion, 38 killed
  21. Wildfire, California, 8/1 – 8/31, $1.8 billion, 14 killed
  22. Flooding, China, 5/7 – 7/10, $1.75 billion, 108 killed
  23. Winter Weather, Europe, 2/23 – 3/2, $1.6 billion, 88 killed
  24. Severe Weather, Plains, Southeast, Northeast U.S., 3/18 – 3/21, $1.5 billion, 0 killed
  25. Severe Weather, Rockies, Plains, Midwest, Northeast U.S., 5/12 – 5/16, $1.45 billion, 5 killed
  26. Winter Weather, China, 1/24 – 1/29, $1.45 billion, 2 killed
  27. Severe Weather, 7/19 – 7/22, Plains, Midwest, Southeast U.S., $1.43 billion, 18 killed
  28. Severe Weather, 4/28 – 5/5 Plains, Midwest U.S., $1.4 billion, 0 killed
  29. Winter Storms Eleanor & Carmen, Western & Central Europe, 1/1 – 1/4, $1.3 billion, 7 killed
  30. Severe Weather, Plains, Midwest, Southeast, Northeast U.S., 4/13 – 4/17, $1.3 billion, 6 killed
  31. Drought, South Africa, 1/1 – 5/31, $1.2 billion, 0 killed
  32. Drought, Australia, 1/1 – 8/1, $1.2 billion, 0 killed
  33. Severe Weather, 6/3 – 6/7, Plains, Midwest, Southeast U.S., $1.1 billion, 0 killed
  34. Winter Storm Grayson, Central & Eastern U.S., 1/3 – 1/5, $1.1 billion, 22 killed
  35. Drought, India, 6/1 – 11/30, $3 billion, 0 killed
  36. California wildfires, 7/24 – 8/1, $1 billion, 6 killed
  37. Typhoon Trami, Japan, 9/28 – 10/2, $1 billion, 4 killed
November Billion-Dollar Disaster 1. Unprecedentedly dangerous fire conditions were in place in November in California, because of a late start to the rainy season, a multi-year drought, and a five-year period that has brought the five hottest years in California history. On November 8, a spark ignited a catastrophic wildfire that swept through Paradise, California killing 86 people and causing over $10 billion in damage. It was the deadliest U.S. wildfire in 100 years, and the 1st or 2nd most damaging wildfire in world history, along with last year’s California Wine Country fires. Above: A burned neighborhood is seen in Paradise, California, on November 15, 2018. Image credit: Josh Edelson/AFP/Getty Images.
Woolsey Fire in Malibu
November Billion-Dollar Disaster 2. Beginning on November 8, Santa Ana winds fanned the Woolsey Fire northwest of Los Angeles, California, as it swept through the towns of Thousand Oaks and Malibu. The fire killed three, and did unspecified billions in damage, according to Aon. CoreLogic estimated total losses from the Woolsey Fire at $4 - 6 billion, which would make it the third costliest wildfire in world history. Above: A house burns during the Woolsey Fire on November 9, 2018 in Malibu, California. Image credit: ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images.

On the verge of an El Niño event

NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center (CPC) kept an El Niño Watch in place in its December 13 monthly advisory, but fell just short of announcing the onset of an El Niño event. Over the past week, sea surface temperatures (SSTs) in the benchmark Niño 3.4 region (in the equatorial Pacific) were about 0.5°C above average. Temperatures of at least 0.5°C above average are needed to be classified as an El Niño event, with the 3-month average temperature staying more than 0.5°C above average for five consecutive months. Oceanic conditions have been above the weak El Niño threshold since late September, but the atmosphere has not yet responded, leading NOAA to classify the current state of the atmosphere as neutral.

Odds for an El Niño event to form were predicted to be 90% for the coming winter (December - January - February), the time of year when El Niño events are typically at their strongest. These odds have increased since the September advisory, when a 65 - 70% chance was given. If an El Niño event does form, it is expected to be a weak one, with a 60% chance of it continuing into spring (March - April - May).

Departure of SST from average
Figure 3. Departure of sea surface temperatures (SSTs) in the benchmark Niño 3.4 region (in the equatorial Pacific). Over the past two months, SSTs have near the 0.5°C above-average threshold needed for an El Niño event. Image credit: Levi Cowan,

Arctic sea ice: ninth lowest November extent on record

Arctic sea ice extent last month had the ninth lowest average November extent in the 40-year satellite record, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC).

Notable global heat and cold marks set for November 2018

Hottest temperature in the Northern Hemisphere: 42.0°C (113.2°F) at Matam, Sengal, 5 November
Coldest temperature in the Northern Hemisphere: -55.8°C (-67.4°F) at Summit, Greenland, 29 November
Hottest temperature in the Southern Hemisphere: 45.7°C (114.3°F) at Reobourne Aero, Australia, 18 November
Coldest temperature in the Southern Hemisphere: -59.1°C (-74.4°F) at Dome Fuji, Antarctica, 2 November
(Courtesy of Maximiliano Herrera.)

Major weather stations that set (not tied) new all-time heat or cold records in November 2018

Jakarta Port (Indonesia) max. 37.8°C, 15 November
Kanton Island (Kiribati) max. 35.6°C, 20 November
Proserpine (Australia) max. 44.9°C, 26 November
Mackay (Australia) max. 40.7°C, 26 November
Cairns Airport (Australia) max. 42.6°C, 26 November
Cairns (Australia) max. 43.6°C, 26 November
Innisfail (Australia) max. 42.0°C, 26 November
Low Isles (Australia) max. 38.9°C, 26 November
South Johnstone (Australia) max. 42.2°C, 27 November
Cooktown (Australia) max. 43.9°C, 27 November
Coen (Australia) max. 41.6°C, 27 November

Six all-time national heat records tied or broken in 2018

So far in 2018, six nations have broken or tied an all-time record for hottest temperature in recorded history:

Palau: 95°F (35°C) at Koror on March 22
Algeria: 124.3°F (51.3°C) at Ouargla on July 5
Taiwan: 104.5°F (40.3°C) at Tianxiang on July 10
Japan: 106.0°F (41.1°C) at Kumagaya on July 23
South Korea: 105.8°F (41.0°C) at Hongcheon on August 1
Kiribati: 35.6°C (96.0°F), Kanton Island on November 20 (ties previous record)

No nations have set an all-time cold temperature record so far in 2018. Most nations do not maintain official databases of extreme temperature records, so the national temperature records reported here are in many cases not official. I use as my source for international weather records researcher Maximiliano Herrera, one of the world's top climatologists, who maintains a comprehensive list of extreme temperature records for every nation in the world on his website. If you reproduce this list of extremes, please cite Maximiliano Herrera as the primary source of the weather records.

Fifty-five monthly national/territorial heat records so far in 2018

January: Marshall Islands
February: Marshall Islands, Falkland Islands, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Palau
March: Marshall Islands, Qatar, Armenia, Madagascar, Pakistan, Iraq, UAE, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Peru
April: Albania, Montenegro
May: Hong Kong, Norway
June: Oman, Marshall Islands, Cocos Islands
July: Iran, Namibia, Indonesia, El Salvador, Jordan, Luxembourg, Netherlands, South Korea, Comoros
August: Japan, Fiji, Falkland Islands
September: Iraq, Comoros, Myanmar
October: Japan, Finland, Thailand, Switzerland, Guam
November: Hungary, Albania, Slovakia, Poland, Guam, Seychelles, Myanmar
December: Marshall Islands, Japan, Taiwan
(Courtesy of Maximiliano Herrera.)

One national monthly cold record set so far in 2018

September: Iceland

Continental/hemispheric records in 2018

Highest temperature ever recorded in April in Asia: 50.2°C (122.4°F) at Nawabshah, Pakistan, 30 April
World record of the highest reliably-measured minimum temperature in 24 hours: 42.6°C (108.7°F) at Qurayyat, Oman, 26 June
African record of highest temperature: 51.3°C (124.3°F) at Ouargla, Algeria, 5 July
African record of the highest minimum temperature: 39.5°C (103.1°F) at Salah, Algeria, 29 July
Northern Hemisphere record of the highest minimum temperature ever recorded in November: 30.5°C (86.9°F) at Yelimane, Mali, 9 November
Northern Hemisphere record of the highest minimum temperature ever recorded in December: 29.0°C (84.2°F) at Bangkok, Thailand, 4 December

The Weather Company’s primary journalistic mission is to report on breaking weather news, the environment and the importance of science to our lives. This story does not necessarily represent the position of our parent company, IBM.

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Dr. Jeff Masters

Dr. Jeff Masters co-founded Weather Underground in 1995, and flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.

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