January 2018: Earth's 5th Warmest January on Record

February 19, 2018, 8:55 PM EST

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Above:  A Boston firefighter wades through flood waters from Boston Harbor on Long Wharf on Thursday, Jan. 4, 2018, after Winter Storm Grayson’s storm surge brought the highest coastal water levels ever recorded in Boston. Image credit: AP Photo/Michael Dwyer.

January 2018 was the planet's fifth warmest January since record keeping began in 1880, said NOAA's National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI) on Tuesday. NASA also rated January 2018 as the fifth warmest January on record, with the only warmer Januarys being 2016, 2017, 2007 and 2015. Global ocean temperatures during January 2018 were the fifth warmest on record, and global land temperatures were the eighth warmest on record. Global satellite-measured temperatures in January 2018 for the lowest 8 km of the atmosphere were the tenth 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 January 2018, the 5th warmest January for the globe since record keeping began in 1880. Record warmth across the land was limited to small areas across the southwestern North America, central Europe, and parts of Oceania, including New Zealand. No land areas had record cold temperatures during January 2018. Europe had its second warmest January, behind 2007. Image credit: National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI).

Three billion-dollar weather disasters in January 2018

Three billion-dollar weather-related disasters hit the Earth last month, according to the January 2018 Catastrophe Report from insurance broker Aon Benfield: Winter Storm Friederike and Winter Storm Eleanor/Carmen in Europe, and Winter Storm Grayson in the U.S. The deadliest weather-related disaster of January was a cold wave during the first week of the month that killed 94 people in India and Nepal. Here is the tally of billion-dollar weather disasters so far in 2018:

1) Winter Storm Friederike, Western & Central Europe, 1/18, $2 billion, 13 killed
2) Winter Storm Grayson, Central & Eastern U.S., 1/3 – 1/5, $1.1 billion, 22 killed
3) Winter Storm Eleanor & Carmen, Western & Central Europe, 1/1 – 1/4, $1 billion, 7 killed

Figure 1. Total snowfall from this week’s East Coast winter storm. Image credit: NOAA/NWS Eastern Region.
January BIllion-Dollar Disaster 1. One of the strongest and most rapidly intensifying midlatitude cyclones on record for the waters off the East Coast brought heavy snow, strong winds, and record coastal flooding to the Northeast U.S. on January 3 – 5. The “bomb” cyclone dubbed “Grayson” deepened a record 59 millibars in just 24 hours. Grayson killed at least 22 people, caused $1.1 billion in damage, and brought the highest storm surge ever recorded to Boston, MA and Bar Harbor, ME. Above: Total snowfall from Winter Storm Grayson. Image credit: NOAA/NWS Eastern Region.
Eleanor damage
January BIllion-Dollar Disaster 2. Windstorms Eleanor and Carmen impacted Western and Central Europe during the first week of January, killing at least seven people and causing significant damage in the UK, Ireland, France, Germany, and Switzerland. Total damage was estimated at $1 billion. Above: People look at the damaged seawall caused by Eleanor in Wimereux, northern France, on January 6, 2018. Image credit: PHILIPPE HUGUEN/AFP/Getty Images.
Friederike damage
January BIllion-Dollar Disaster 3. Windstorm Friederike left at least 13 people dead after hurricane-force wind gusts and heavy rainfall impacted Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, France, and the United Kingdom on January 18. Friederike was the costliest windstorm in Germany since 2007’s Windstorm Kyrill, with preliminary insured damage estimated at $1.24 billion. Total damage from Friederike was estimated at $2 billion. Above: Parts of the roof structure of a primary school hang over the facade on January 19, 2018 in Halberstadt, eastern Germany, one day after the region was hit by 'Friederike'. Image credit: MATTHIAS BEIN/AFP/Getty Images.

La Niña continues, but is expected to dissipate by May

La Niña conditions remained over the equatorial Pacific during the past month, said NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center (CPC) in its February 8 monthly advisory. They predicted that the current weak La Niña event that began in August 2017 is near its end, with a 55% chance that it will transition to a neutral state during the March – May timeframe. Over the last few weeks, though, sea surface temperatures (SSTs) in the benchmark Niño 3.4 region (in the equatorial Pacific) have remained well below the 0.5°C-below-average benchmark that is required to qualify as a weak La Niña. During moderate La Niña conditions, the SSTs remain at least 1.0°C below average. The 3-month average SSTs must hold stay below the 0.5°C-below-average threshold for five consecutive months (with an accompanying La Niña-like atmospheric response) in order to qualify as a La Niña event in the NOAA historical database.

Departure of SST from average
Figure 2. Sea surface temperatures (SSTs) in the benchmark Niño 3.4 region (in the equatorial Pacific) have hovered around the 1°C below average threshold over the past week; SSTs of 0.5°C or more below average in this region are required to be classified as weak La Niña conditions. Image credit: Levi Cowan, tropicaltidbits.com.

Arctic sea ice falls to lowest January extent on record

Arctic sea ice extent during January 2018 was the lowest in the 39-year satellite record, beating the record set in January 2017, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC). Near-surface air temperatures (about 2,500 feet above sea level) were unusually high over the Arctic Ocean in January, with nearly all of the region 3 degrees Celsius (5 degrees Fahrenheit) or more above average. Antarctic sea ice extent in January 2018 was the second lowest on record, behind the record set in 2017.

Notable global heat and cold marks set for January 2018

Hottest temperature in the Northern Hemisphere: 39.5°C (103.1°F) at Kolda, Senegal, 14 January
Coldest temperature in the Northern Hemisphere: -62.5°C (-80.5°F) at Geo Summit, Greenland, 6 January
Hottest temperature in the Southern Hemisphere: 47.4°C (117.3°F) at Vioolsdrif, South Africa (4 January) and at Wudinna, Australia (19 January)
Coldest temperature in the Southern Hemisphere: -47.3°C (-53.1°F) at Concordia, Antarctica, 29 January
(Courtesy of Maximiliano Herrera.)

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

Haast (New Zealand) max. 29.6°C, 5 January
Wyalong Airport (Australia) max. 45.5°C, 7 January
Purnea (India) min. 1.2°C, 8 January
Chittagong (Bangladesh) min. 6.3°C, 8 January
Tigerhoek (South Africa) max. 44.9°C, 11 January
Asahi (Japan) min. -8.1°C, 13 January
Invercargill (New Zealand) max. 32.3°C, 14 January
Dunedin Airport (New Zealand) max. 35.0°C, 16 January
Mariental (Namibia) max. 43.9°C, 16 January
Larapuna (Australia) max. 38.2°C, 19 January
Otaki (Japan) min. -24.9°C, 25 January
Makkari (Japan) min. -22.1°C, 25 January
Setana (Japan) min. -16.2°C, 25 January
Fuchu (Japan) min. -8.4°C, 25 January
Koshigaya (Japan) min. -7.5°C, 26 January
Saitama (Japan) min. -9.8°C, 26 January
Ome (Japan) min. -9.3°C, 27 January
Wanaka (New Zealand) max. 35.2°C, 27 January
Queenstown Aero (New Zealand) max. 33.4°C, 29 January
Lauder (New Zealand) max. 35.8°C, 29 January
Clyde (New Zealand) max. 37.6°C, 30 January
Ranfurly (New Zealand) max. 33.7°C, 30 January
Hanmer Forest (New Zealand) max. 36.7°C, 30 January
Masterton (New Zealand) max. 35.4°C, 30 January
Waiau (New Zealand) max. 37.0°C, 30 January
Lanzarote Airport (Canary Islands,Spain) min. 7.8°C, 30 January
Nugget Point (New Zealand) max. 34.2°C, 31 January
(Courtesy of Maximiliano Herrera.)

No all-time national heat or cold records set in January 2018

No nations set an all-time record for hottest or coldest temperature in recorded history 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.

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 while working on his Ph.D. in air pollution meteorology at the University of Michigan. He worked for the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990 as a flight meteorologist.


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