Climate trackers say August was record-warm globally

Streak of record global heat continues

Surface air temperature anomaly for August 2016 relative to the August average for the period 1981-2010. Source: ERA-Interim.
Surface air temperature anomaly for August 2016 relative to the August average for the period 1981-2010. Source: ERA-Interim.

Staff Report

August 2016 is down in the global climate annals as the warmest August on record and the second-warmest month of all time, just behind July. According to Copernicus, Europe’s earth observation program, August’s global average temperature was 0.62 degrees Celsius above the 1981-2010 average, and 0.17 degrees Celsius warmer than the previous August record, set in 2015.

According to the Copernicus update, the global temperature anomaly crested in February, coinciding with the peak of ocean-warming El Niño conditions, dropped from March to June, but spiked again during July and August. Each month from August 2015 onward has been the warmest on record for that particular month.

Across Europe, temperatures varied from month to month, from well-above average in December 2015 to below average in January, then back to warmer than average in February, with each subsequent month through August remaining above average.

Globally, the period from September 2015 to August 2016 is the warmest twelve months on record, with a temperature 0.63 degrees Celsius above the 1981-2010 average. There is agreement between various datasets regarding:

  • the exceptional warmth of 2015 and 2016;
  • the overall rate of warming since the late 1970s;
  • the sustained period of above-average values from 2001 onwards.

Copernicus also posted data from monitoring summer wildfires in Siberia, showing a link between the vast blazes and some of the warmest temperatures on record for that region:

“The Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S) data have shown every month of 2016 to be the warmest of that month since records began, with July being the warmest month on record in absolute terms (http://climate.copernicus.eu/resources/data-analysis/average-surface-air-temperature-analysis/monthly-maps/).

Increased July surface air temperatures were most pronounced across northern Russia and western Siberia, where warmer and, crucially, drier environmental conditions fuelled the wildfire activity (http://www.rcinet.ca/eye-on-the-arctic/2016/08/11/in-russias-warmest-summer-ever-arctic-ice-reaches-record-low/).

Dry conditions across the region are highlighted by unseasonal low precipitation (see Figure 1), and soil moisture (not shown). Satellite observations of wildfire locations made by the MODIS instruments show a clear distribution across central Siberia from the Ob River in the northwest to Lake Baikal in the southeast, collocated with the driest conditions.

Wildfires are commonplace in spring and summer across Siberia and forests in the Northern Hemisphere generally, with 2016 also having experienced significant wildfire activity in Fort McMurray, Canada during May and southern California during July and August. The Siberian wildfires, however, have been notable for their correspondence with the climate monitoring in C3S.”

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