The Washington Post

Surprise! January 2014 was Earth’s 4th warmest on record, even while U.S. shivered

All Americans heard about in January was the extreme cold and the repeated intrusion of the polar vortex.  But the weather in the eastern U.S. deviated from much of the rest of the planet. Overall,  NOAA reports, the global temperature in January was the warmest since 2007 and the 4th warmest on record, dating back to 1880.

January’s global temperature was 1.17 degrees above the long-term average, marking the 347th straight month of above normal warmth. You have to go all the way back to February, 1985 – almost 29 years  – to find a cooler than normal month on Earth.

NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) said the warmth was most notable in Alaska, western Canada, Greenland, Mongolia, southern Russia, and northern China. The average temperature in these areas was more than 5 degrees F. above normal. In addition, southern Hemisphere land areas – on average – had their warmest January on record.

Temperature difference from average globally in January (NOAA)
Temperature difference from average in France in January (METEO FRANCE) Temperature difference from average in France in January (METEO FRANCE)

The following countries experienced unusual warmth, according to NCDC:

  • France matched its previous warmest Januarys on record, from 1988 and 1936. Records in France began in 1900.
  • China had its 2nd warmest January since records began in 1961.
  • Spain had its 3rd warmest January since records began in 1961.
  • Switzerland had its 5th warmest January since records began 150 years ago.
  • Austria had its 5th warmest January since records began 1768.
  • Australia had its 12th warmest January since records began in 1910.

The colder than normal areas around the globe occupied much less real estate, focusing in the eastern half of the Lower 48 U.S. states, central Canada, and much of Scandinavia and Russia.

Despite the extreme cold in the eastern U.S., warmth in the West counterbalanced it such that January ended up just 0.1 degrees colder than normal across the Lower 48. In striking contrast, Alaska was nearly 15 degrees F. warmer than normal, its third warmest January in its 96-year record.

Correction: For a couple minutes after publication, the headline erroneously stated it was the planet’s “4th coldest” January on record instead of “4th warmest”.  This error was promptly corrected.

Jason is the Washington Post’s weather editor and Capital Weather Gang's chief meteorologist. He earned a master's degree in atmospheric science, and spent 10 years as a climate change science analyst for the U.S. government. He holds the Digital Seal of Approval from the National Weather Association.
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Jason Samenow · February 24, 2014

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