Global climate change

How did Surface Temperatures Rank for January 2014?

2/18/2014, 2:24:46 PM

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The Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) has released their January 2014 global temperature data for land and ocean surface combined.

I realize it is hard to believe for folks in the eastern half of the U.S. and Canada, but January 2014 was the 3rd warmest January in the GISS global temperature record, which goes back to 1880. The top two warmest January months were 2002 and 2003 in which both years averaged 0.72 degrees above normal.

Global temperature anomalies for January 2014. Image courtesy of GISS.

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You can clearly see how warm it was compared to normal last month over western Canada and Alaska, while a large portion of eastern North America shivered.

January 2014 averaged 0.70 degrees C. (1.26 degrees F.) above the 1951-1980 average, according to GISS.

January 2014 was also the 3rd warmest January in the Northern Hemisphere and averaged 0.94 C. (1.69 F.) above normal.

In the Southern Hemisphere, last month was the 8th warmest January on record with a temperature anomaly of +0.47 C. (+0.85 F.)

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Key FAQ's from the GISS site.........

Q. Why no data from before 1880? A. The analysis is limited to the period since 1880 because of poor spatial coverage of stations and decreasing data quality prior to that time. Meteorological station data provide a useful indication of temperature change in the Northern Hemisphere extratropics for a few decades prior to 1880, and there are a small number of station records that extend back to previous centuries. However, we believe that analyses for these earlier years need to be carried out on a station by station basis with an attempt to discern the method and reliability of measurements at each station, a task beyond the scope of our analysis. Global studies of still earlier times depend upon incorporation of proxy measures of temperature change.

Q. Why use the adjusted rather than the "raw" data? A. GISS uses temperature data for longterm climate studies. For station data to be useful for such studies, it is essential that the time series of observations are consistent, and that any non-climatic temperature jumps, introduced by station moves or equipment updates, are corrected for. In adjusted data the effect of such non-climatic influences is eliminated whenever possible. Originally, only documented cases were adjusted, however the current procedure used by NOAA/NCDC applies an automated system that uses systematic comparisons with neighboring stations to deal with undocumented instances of artificial changes. The processes and evaluation of these procedures are described in numerous publications — for instance, Menne et al., 2010 and Venema et al., 2012 — and at the NOAA/NCDC website.

Q. Why stick with the 1951-1980 base period? A. The primary focus of the GISS analysis are longterm temperature changes over many decades and centuries, and a fixed base period makes the anomalies consistent over time. However, organizations like the NWS who are more focused on current weather conditions work with a time frame of days, weeks, or at most a few years. In that situation it makes sense to move the base period occasionally, i.e. pick a new normal, so that roughly half the data of interest are above normal and the rest below.

The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of AccuWeather, Inc. or AccuWeather.com

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Global climate change