European Climate Change Service report highlights unusually warm Arctic
January 2017 will go down in the books as Earth’s second-warmest January on record, just 0.17 degrees cooler than last year, according to the monthly update from the European Climate Change Service. According to the bulletin, January was 0.55 degrees warmer than the 1981-2010 average, with hotspots especially across Southern Hemisphere continents, as well as the southeastern U.S.
In the Northern Hemisphere, Europe was about 1 degree Celsius cooler the 1981-2010 January average, similar to 2016. Other cooler-than-average areas included parts of the western USA and Canada, northern Greenland, North Africa, parts of Siberia, southern Africa, north-western Australia and much of the Antarctic plateau.
The most extreme January climate variations once again showed up in the Arctic, where a month-ending heatwave sent readings at some spots spiking 20 degrees Celsius above average. Warm conditions were also reported from central Africa, through the Arabian Peninsula to eastern Siberia. Temperatures were also well above normal over much of China, Chile (where wildfires were extensive), eastern Brazil and eastern Australia.
Warmer-than-average conditions also prevailed across most of the world’s oceans, with exceptions including the north-eastern Pacific Ocean and over parts of the southern Atlantic, Indian and Pacific Oceans.
For the 12 months spanning February 2016 to January 2017, the warmest readings also were from the Arctic, especially over and to the east of Svalbard and lower than average over parts of the southern oceans and the northern Atlantic and Pacific Oceans and over the equatorial Pacific, where weak La Niña conditions started May 2016.
Globally, the twelve-month average from February 2016 to January 2017 is 0.61 degrees Celsius above the 1981-2010 average. The warmest twelve-month period on record is from October 2015 to September 2016, with a temperature 0.64 degrees Celsius above average, and 2016 is by far the warmest calendar year on record, nearly 0.2 degrees warmer than 2015 and 2005, the two next warmest calendar years.
The European climate report also explained that the spread in the global averages from various temperature datasets has been unusually high for the last few months, due to differences in the extent to which datasets represent the relatively warm high-latitude conditions associated with exceptionally low sea-ice cover.
Nevertheless, there is agreement between datasets regarding the exceptional warmth of 2016, and to a lesser extent 2015; the overall rate of warming since the late 1970s and the sustained period of above-average temperatures from 2001 onwards.
There is more variability in average European temperatures, but values are less uncertain because observational coverage of the continent is relatively dense. Twelve-month averages for Europe have been at a persistently high level for the last three years or so. They are nevertheless lower than the averages from around the middle of 2006 to the middle of 2007.
The average surface air temperature analysis homepage explains more about the production and reliability of these values.