June 2014 was Earth’s warmest on record as ocean temperatures surged

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reports that June was the globe’s warmest in 134 years of records following its report that May was also the hottest on record.  These reports are feeding anticipation that 2014 could become the warmest year on record.


Temperature anomaly in June over land and ocean, compared to to the 1981-2010 average. (NOAA)

Primarily, it was the oceans of the world that pushed the mercury into the red zone. According to the report, June was the first time that the monthly global ocean temperature difference from average was higher than 1.08°F.  In other words, in no month on record have ocean temperatures deviated more from normal than June.

The oceans achieved this record warmth prior to the declaration of El Nino, which would  signal substantial warming of the tropical Pacific. Should the Pacific achieve El Nino conditions, it would push ocean temperatures even higher.

The superlative that everyone has their eye on is warmest year on record, which 2014 could challenge. Compared to the top five warmest years on record, 2014 ranks third year-to-date and is on an upward trajectory. If El Nino kicks in, it would likely increase the global temperature average toward the end of the year, and would make 2014 a viable candidate for warmest on record. The Climate Prediction Center is maintaining a 70 percent chance that an El Nino event will develop in 2014.


Year-to-date global temperature. The black like represents 2014 so far, and the other colors represent the 5 warmest years on record. (NOAA)

The entire first half of 2014 has been warm. According to the Japan Meteorological Agency, June marks the third month in a row of record high temperature. April and May were also global record-breakers. NOAA concludes that June is the second consecutive month of record high temperatures.

But, as Slate’s Eric Holthaus points out, these rankings are extremely nuanced — the difference of half a degree — and represent an overall consensus that Earth is breaking records:

The statistics are akin to splitting hairs on a camel’s fracturing back (the camel being Earth, of course): The three hottest April-May-June periods (2014, 2010, and 1998) are essentially indistinguishable, differing by about 0.06 degrees Celsius according to JMA or about 0.01 degrees Celsius according to NASA.

All of the past five Junes have ranked among the top 10 warmest on record, according to the report. June 2014 was the 38th consecutive June and 352nd straight month of above average temperature. The June heat was felt across the globe, with record warmth being felt in Greenland, northern South America, eastern and central Africa, and southeast Asia. New Zealand also recorded its warmest June since records began in 1909.

Sea ice in the Northern Hemisphere was the sixth smallest on record (in 48 years of records). According to the National Snow and Ice Data Center, the rate of sea ice loss in the second half of June was the second fastest on record.

Angela Fritz is an atmospheric scientist and The Post's deputy weather editor.
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Angela Fritz · July 21, 2014