September 2017: Earth's 4th Warmest September on Record

October 18, 2017, 4:04 PM EDT

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Above: The deadliest weather-related disaster of September was Hurricane Irma, which killed 80 people in the Southeast U.S., and 44 people in the Caribbean and Bahamas. In this VIIRS infrared image of Hurricane Irma at 1:35 am EDT Wednesday, September 6, 2017, the island of Barbuda was in the eye, and Irma was a Category 5 storm with 185 mph winds. Image credit: UW-Madison/CIMSS.

September 2017 was the planet's fourth warmest September since record keeping began in 1880, said NOAA's National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI) and NASA this week. The only warmer Septembers came during 2015, 2016, and 2014. Minor differences can occur between the NASA and NOAA rankings because of their different techniques for analyzing data-sparse regions such as the Arctic.

Global ocean temperatures last month were the fourth warmest on record for any September, according to NOAA, and global land temperatures were the third warmest on record. Global satellite-measured temperatures for the lowest 8 km of the atmosphere were the warmest for any September in the 39-year record, according to the University of Alabama Huntsville (UAH) and Remote Sensing Systems (RSS).

September 2017 departure of temperature from average
Figure 1. Departure of temperature from average for September 2017, the fourth warmest September for the globe since record keeping began in 1880. Record warmth was observed across parts of central and southern Africa, southern Asia, and scattered across the western, northern, and southern Pacific Ocean, the Atlantic Ocean (off the southeastern coast of South America), the Norwegian Sea, Greenland Sea, and Barents Sea, and across parts of the Indian Ocean. No land or ocean areas experienced record cold September temperatures. Image credit: National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI).
Departures from the 20th-century global average temperature for September, 1880-2017
Figure 2. Departures from the 20th-century global average temperature for September, 1880-2017. The four warmest Septembers on record have all occurred in the last four years. Image credit; NOAA/NCEI

Second-warmest year on record thus far

Each of the first eight months of 2017 have ranked among the top four warmest such months on record, giving 2017 the second highest January–September temperature in the 138-year record: 0.78°C (1.57°F) above the 20th-century average. This is behind the record year of 2016 by 0.13°C (0.24°F). This near-record warmth in 2017 is especially remarkable given the lack of an El Niño event this year. Global temperatures tend to be warmer during El Niño years, when the ocean releases more heat to the atmosphere. Given the lack of an El Niño event in 2017, it is unlikely that we will surpass 2016 as the warmest year on record. However, 2017 is almost certain to be the planet's warmest year on record that lacks any influence from El Niño, and Earth's four warmest years of the last century-plus are likely to be 2016, 2017, 2015, and 2014.

Two billion-dollar weather disasters in September 2017

Two Category 5 Atlantic hurricanes caused billion-dollar weather disasters last month, according to the September 2017 Catastrophe Report from insurance broker Aon Benfield: Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria. Through the end of September, Earth had 21 billion-dollar weather events for the year, which is a typical number for this point in the year. The year that ended with the most billion-dollar weather disasters in records going back to 1990 was 2013, with 41; that year had 33 billion-dollar disasters by the end of September. Last year, there were 28 billion-dollar weather disasters by the end of September; that year ended up with 31 such disasters. Here are this year’s billion-dollar weather disasters through the end of September:

Hurricane Irma, Caribbean, Bahamas, SE U.S., 9/5 – 9/12, >$30 billion, 124 killed
Hurricane Harvey, U.S., 8/25 – 9/2, >$20 billion, 60 killed
Hurricane Maria, Caribbean, 9/18 – 9/21, >$20 billion, 78 killed
Flooding, China, 6/22 – 7/5, $7.5 billion, 141 killed
Flooding, China, 7/13 – 7/17, $4.5 billion, 20 killed
Typhoon Hato, Macau, Hong Kong, China, 8/23 – 8/24, $3.5 billion, 22 killed
Flooding, Peru, 1/1 – 4/1, $3.1 billion, 120 killed
Severe Weather, Rockies, Plains, U.S., 5/8 – 5/11, $2.6 billion, 0 killed
Drought, China, 5/1 – 8/31, $2.5 billion, 0 killed
Tropical Cyclone Debbie, Australia, 3/27 – 4/5, $2.4 billion, 14 killed
Drought, Italy, 1/1 – 7/31, $2.3 billion, 0 killed
Severe Weather, Plains, Southeast, Midwest U.S., 3/26 – 3/28, $2.3 billion, 0 killed
Severe Weather, Midwest, Plains, Southeast U.S., 3/6 – 3/10, $2.1 billion, 0 killed
Severe Weather, Midwest, Plains, Southeast MS Valley U.S., 4/28 – 5/01, $2.0 billion, 20 killed
Drought, Somalia, Ethiopia, Kenya, 1/1 – 3/31, $1.9 billion, hundreds killed
Severe Weather, South U.S., 2/27 - 3/2, $1.9 billion, 4 killed
Severe Weather, Midwest U.S., 6/11, $1.8 billion, 0 killed
Severe Weather, South U.S., 1/18 - 1/23, $1.3 billion, 21 killed
Tropical Storm Nanmadol, Japan, 7/4 – 7/6, $1.0 billion, 37 killed
Severe Weather, Plains, Midwest, Northeast U.S., 6/27 – 6/30, $1.0 billion, 0 killed
Winter Weather, Plains, Midwest, Southeast, Northeast U.S., 3/13 – 3/15, $1.0 billion, 11 killed

Irma damage
September Billion-Dollar Disaster 1. Hurricane Irma hit multiple islands in the Caribbean as a Category 5 hurricane with 185 mph winds, causing catastrophic damage in the tens of billions, and at least 124 deaths. Above: Destroyed glass panes are seen after the passage of Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria in Orient Bay, St. Martin, on September 20, 2017. (Helene Valenzuela/AFP/Getty Images).
Maria damage
September Billion-Dollar Disaster 2. Hurricane Maria hit the island of Dominica in the Caribbean as a Category 5 hurricane with 160 mph winds, then powered through the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico as a top-end Category 4 storm with 155 mph winds, causing catastrophic damage in the tens of billions in damage, and at least 78 deaths. Above: A thoroughly destroyed house in El Negro, Puerto Rico, near where the eye of Maria made landfall. Image credit: AP/Carlos Giusti.

55 – 65% chance of La Niña by winter

In its October 12 monthly advisory, NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center (CPC) stated that neither El Niño nor La Niña conditions were present in the Eastern Pacific (ENSO-neutral conditions existed). Sea surface temperatures (SSTs) in the benchmark Niño 3.4 region (in the equatorial Pacific) were about 0.5°C below average 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, with the 3-month average SSTs holding at these levels for five consecutive months (with an accompanying La Niña-like atmospheric response). Enhanced east-to-west blowing trade winds are predicted for the west-central Pacific over the next two weeks, and these stronger-than-average trade winds will help the progression towards La Niña. NOAA forecasters gave a 55 - 65% chance of a La Niña event by winter, similar to the 55 – 60% odds given in their previous month’s forecast.

El Nino region SSTs
Figure 3. Sea surface temperatures (SSTs) in the benchmark Niño 3.4 region (in the equatorial Pacific) were oscillating around 0.5°C below average for the first half of October, near the 0.5°C below average threshold for weak La Niña conditions. Image credit: Levi Cowan,

Arctic sea ice extent the seventh lowest on record for September

Arctic sea ice extent during September 2017 was the seventh lowest in the 38-year satellite record, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC). The Arctic was dominated by low pressure and clouds in the summer of 2017. The cyclonic (counterclockwise) winds associated with the stormy pattern also tend to spread out the sea ice. Together, these two influences brought slower ice loss than in the record-low extent years of 2012 and 2007. The Arctic reached its lowest extent for the year on September 13, which was the eighth lowest extent on record. The five lowest Arctic sea ice extents were measured in September 2012, 2007, 2016, 2011, and 2015.

Antarctic sea ice extent the second lowest on record for September

Sea ice surrounding Antarctica had the second lowest extent on record in September 2017, and has been at record- to near-record lows since September 2016. A recent study by John Turner and colleagues links the recent Antarctic sea ice decline to a series of strong storms accompanied by long periods of warm winds from the north. These changing weather conditions are associated with large shifts in the Southern Annual Mode (SAM) index.

Notable global heat and cold marks set for September 2017

Hottest temperature in the Northern Hemisphere: 50.3°C (122.5°F) at Mitribah, Kuwait, 3 September
Coldest temperature in the Northern Hemisphere: -37.0°C (-27.2°F) at Summit, Greenland, 3 September
Hottest temperature in the Southern Hemisphere: 42.8°C (109.0°F) at Birdsville, Australia, 27 September
Coldest temperature in the Southern Hemisphere: -78.3°C (-108.9°F) at Concordia, Antarctica, 2 September

(Courtesy of Maximiliano Herrera.)

Major weather stations that set (not tied) new all-time heat or cold records in September 2017

So far in 2017, 168 major weather stations have set records for the all-time highest temperature ever measured, and 17 have set records for the all-time lowest temperature ever measured. Here are the records for September 2017:

San Francisco (California, USA) max. 41.1°C, 1 September
Salinas (California, USA) max. 42.8°C, 2 September
Palo Alto (California, USA) max. 42.2°C, 2 September
San Luis Obispo (California, USA) max. 46.1°C, 2 September
King City (California, USA) max. 46.1°C, 2 September
Santa Cruz (California, USA) max. 43.3°C, 2 September
Conceicao do Araguaia (Brazil) max. 41.5°C, 19 September

(Courtesy of Maximiliano Herrera.)

No all-time national heat records set or tied in September 2017

No all-time national heat records were set or tied in September 2017. As of October 17, thirteen nations have set or tied all-time national heat records in 2017, and two have set or tied all-time cold records. National all-time monthly temperature records so far in 2017 have numbered 46 for maximum temperature, and 2 for minimum temperature. 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.

All-time national heat records set or tied in 2017:

Macau: 102.2°F (39.0°C) at Ka Ho, Coloane Island, 22 August (tie)
Hong Kong: 102.2°F (39.0°C) at Wetland Park, 22 August
San Marino: 104.5°F (40.3°C), at Serravalle, 3 and 9 August
Vatican City: 105.3°F (40.7°C) at Roma Macao AWS, 2 August (tie)
United Arab Emirates: 125.2°F (51.8°C), at Mezaira, 30 July
Spain: 117.1°F (47.3°C), at Montoro AEMET, 13 July
Iran: 128.7°F (53.7°C), at Ahwaz, 29 June
Oman: 123.4°F (50.8°C), at Qurayyat on 30 May and at Joba on 31 May (tie)
Pakistan: 128.3°F (53.5°C), at Turbat on 28 May (tie)
Guinea: 113°F (45.0°C), at Koundara, 29 March (tie)
Ghana: 110.8°F (43.8°C), at Navrongo, 26 March
Chile: 113°F (45.0°C), at Cauquenes, 26 January
Cocos Islands (Australia): 91.0°F (32.8°C), at Cocos Island Airport, 23 February (tie with 8 April 2015 and 11 April 1998)

All-time national cold records set in 2017:

United Arab Emirates: 22.3°F (-5.4°C) at Jabel Jais, 3 February
Qatar: 34.7°F (1.5°C) at Abu Samra, 5 February

National monthly maximum temperature records tied or beaten in 2017 (46):

Jan: Comoros, Uganda, Singapore, Mexico
Feb: Iceland
Mar: Kenya, Indonesia, Spain, Chile, Cook Islands
Apr: Ghana, Wallis and Futuna, Honduras, Samoa, Uganda, Pakistan, Cabo Verde, UAE
May: Greece, Iran, Norway, Austria
June: Mexico, Oman, Iraq, Turkey, Albania, Portugal, UAE
July: Cyprus, Comoros, Mayotte, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, Niger
August: Iran, UAE, Trinidad and Tobago, USA, French Guiana
September: Syria, Saudi Arabia, Iceland
October: Portugal, Hong Kong, Comoros

National monthly minimum temperature records set in 2017 (2):

Jan: St. Eustatius
July: Greenland

Other records set in 2017:

World record of highest minimum temperature for March: 35.6°C at Yelimane, Mali, 31 March
Asian record of highest temperature ever recorded in April: 50.0°C at Larkana, Pakistan, 19 April
World record of highest temperature ever recorded in May (tied): 53.5°C at Turbat, Pakistan, 28 May
Asian record of highest temperature ever recorded in June: 53.7°C at Ahwaz, Iran, 29 June
Northern Hemisphere record of lowest temperature ever recorded in July: -33.0°C at Summit, Greenland, 4 July

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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