Combination of climate change and El Niño leading to record warmth
So far this month, the world's oceans and land masses have been the warmest on record. This is most likely due to a combination of ongoing climate change and the strengthening El Niño. Unfortunately, I suspect this is just the start of an extended period of record-breaking warmth for the globe on average. Typically, we see our highest global temperatures and sea surface temperature anomalies during the late phases of El Niño.
This year will almost certainly rank in the top three warmest on record globally. However, if history is a good indicator, 2024 will likely be even hotter.
The image above shows the daily average global sea surface temperature (60 N to 60 S) going back to 1981. The dark black line is 2023. Image courtesy the Climate Change Institute from the University of Maine.
The image above shows the daily average global 2 meter surface temperature going back to 1979. The dark black line is 2023. Image courtesy the Climate Change Institute from the University of Maine.
The long-term trend in ocean heat content (a measure of the ocean temperature from the surface to depths of 700 and 2000 meters) is an excellent measure of climate change.
The world's ocean heat content has been steadily increasing, especially over the past 25-30 years. The increase in ocean heat content contributes to sea level rise (thermal expansion of sea water), ocean heat waves, coral bleaching and the melting of land-based glaciers such as Greenland and Antarctica.
The warming of the world's oceans clearly dominates over the smaller areas that have cooled (see above image), which is most likely due to the intrusion of colder, fresh water from the melting of the land-based glaciers of Greenland and Antarctica.
The image above shows the most recent sea surface temperature anomalies across the world. The concentrated area of reds and oranges along the equator and extending westward from the west coast of South America out into the Pacific is the classic El Niño signature. Much of the North Atlantic is running abnormally warm. Image courtesy the Climate Change Institute from the University of Maine.
Sea surface temperatures off the southwestern coast of Florida are also at record-high levels this month with some locations reaching above 90 degrees Fahrenheit.
All this warm water is a tremendous heat source for tropical cyclones, which increases the risk of rapidly strengthening storms. On the other hand, the strengthening El Niño favors increased wind shear across the Atlantic basin, which inhibits tropical development.Report a Typo