It’s frigid outside over large parts of the United States, but the planet is still warming, as evidenced by a near record-warm November for the globe.
Temperatures in parts of the Arctic averaged more than 20 degrees above normal, as Earth recorded its second warmest November since 1880 (when records began).
NASA data show the planet’s temperature was 1.7 degrees above the 1951-1980 November average, and just slightly cooler than November 2015 — the record-setter (at 1.8 degrees above average).
While some media commentators misleadingly claimed the Earth’s land temperature recently experienced its greatest drop ever recorded, NASA data show whatever drop there was (because of the transition from El Niño to La Niña) has begun to reverse. In fact, 2016’s average November global land temperature was the warmest on record, 2.3 degrees above average, the data indicate.
An analysis of surface temperatures from Berkeley Earth, an independent team of scientists, also concluded the November average global land temperature was the warmest on record.
— Zeke Hausfather (@hausfath) December 13, 2016
With the lone exception of Siberia, where frigid air piled up during November, land areas around the world were abnormally warm.
The warmth in the Arctic was particularly breathtaking, at one point soaring 36 degrees above normal north of 80 degrees latitude.
Richard James, who holds a doctorate in meteorology, found November produced the most anomalously warm Arctic temperatures on record after analyzing data from 19 weather stations. The average temperature was more than 5 degrees warmer than the next warmest November dating back to 1971, he said.
Feeding into the Arctic warmth was profoundly depleted sea ice, which hit its lowest extent on record by far, stunning scientists.
The Lower 48 states were also unusually mild, having their second-warmest November on record, which closed off their top warmest meteorological fall.
Because so many of 2016’s months have been record warm or near-record warm for the globe, the year is assured to be the warmest on record, climate scientist Gavin Schmidt declared on Twitter:
Might not feel like it today, but 2016 will be the warmest year in the surface temperature records, 1.2ºC/2ºF above the late 19th C pic.twitter.com/npGM1741Vf
— Gavin Schmidt (@ClimateOfGavin) December 15, 2016
Schmidt is the director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies.
Correction, 9:00 p.m.: The original version of the article inadvertently displayed a time series showing November Antarctic sea ice extent instead of Arctic sea ice extent. This has been corrected and the article now displays a time series of Arctic sea ice extent during November as intended.