2017 Is Unexpectedly Warm
Still a bit cool here in the Pacific Northwest, but almost everywhere else is experiencing a hot summer, and unexpectedly hot because we don't have an El Nino which usually brings us this kind of heat.
Normally, the hottest years on record occur when the underlying human-caused global warming trend gets a temporary boost from an El Niño’s enhanced warming in the tropical Pacific.
So it’s been a surprise to climate scientists that 2017 has been so remarkably warm — because the last El Niño ended a year ago. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reported Tuesday that the first half of 2017 was the second-warmest January-June on record for Earth, topped only by 2016, which was boosted by one of the biggest El Niños on record.
“As if it wasn’t shocking enough to see three consecutive record-breaking years, in 2014, 2015, and 2016, for the first time on record,” leading climatologist Michael Mann wrote in an email to ThinkProgress, “we’re now seeing near-record temperatures even in the absence of the El Nino ‘assist’ that the previous record year benefited from.”
NOAA climatologist Ahira Sanchez-Lugo told Climate Central, “After the decline of the strong El Niño, I was expecting the values to drop a bit…. This year has been extremely remarkable.”
This matters because when a month — or six-month period — sees record high global temperatures in the absence of an El Niño, that is a sign the underlying global warming trend is stronger than ever. The latest NOAA report is “a reminder that climate change has not, despite the insistence of climate contrarians ‘paused’ or even slowed down,” Mann said.