Global Warming: Record Breaking October Heat

The Earth's surface is warming primarily because of human generated greenhouse gasses, mainly CO2, being added to the atmosphere. Several agencies and organizations track this by combining data from surface thermometers and sea surface temperature measurements. The Japan Meteorological Agency is one such group, and they have just released their updated monthly data for October.

The graph above shows the average surface temerature for the month of October for the entire period of their data set (1891 to the present). Not only is October 2015 the warmest October observed, but it is way warmer than previous Octobers.

This isn't the biggest jump observed. If you look at the earlier data, you can see other jumps of simlar (or in one or two cases, greater) magnitude. These, including this year, are all En Niños. During an El Niño, heat that has been stored up for the previous several years in the Pacific Ocean is released because of temporary changes in sea currents and trade winds.

Here is the important thing to note about this set of data. The present El Niño is a big one. But several of the earlier El Niños were also big ones. But with each big El Niño, we see an increase in temperatures over the previous El Niños. Keep this in mind when the following two things are brought to your attention: 1) We are breaking all sorts of records with tropical storms, heat waves, and other dangerous weather, but 2) this is expected since it is an El Niño year.

The breaking of numerous records in not expected in an El Niño year. For many of these observations, we do expect to be more likely to break a record during any given El Niño, but records would also be broken, and set for the long term, during an earlier strong El Niño. But, with global surface temperatures marching ever upwards, a year like the present one is likely to break even those older El Niño enhanced records, because of global warming.

The present El Niño is expected to last into next year.

Over the coming days some of the other agencies that track global warming will come out with their data for October. Stay tuned.

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Of course, I am one single observer in a single location in CA - and I have not measured the temperature assiduously on a daily basis - but I can tell you that this has been the first October since I moved to the East SF Bay Area 31 years ago when I have NOT had to put on a jacket or sweatshirt even once. It has OBVIOUSLY been the warmest October in memory at my home and in the general area.

Thanks goodness November is here, and with its arrival a bit of briskness and water.

By Bruce Jensen (not verified) on 16 Nov 2015 #permalink

Well, Bruce, we'll see how November goes. It will be cooler, but it is still globally going to be a very warm month, possibly warmer than October ... globally, not in North America.

Your jacket may remain a bit lonely for a while longer.

If I didn't know any better, I'd say that looks rather like a trend.

By Daniel Bastian (not verified) on 16 Nov 2015 #permalink

So what you're saying is:

- El Nino years, by their very nature, generate amplified warmth at the surface.

- That El Nino years surpass the warmth of non-El Nino years is expected.

- That El Nino years consistently break previous El Nino years is unexpected unless we add the context of global warming.

I think I got it.

By Daniel Bastian (not verified) on 16 Nov 2015 #permalink

You say "The Earth’s surface is warming primarily because of human generated greenhouse gasses, mainly CO2, being added to the atmosphere."

How do you know that the energy being added to the Earth system by increasing CO2 is manifest in a surface temperature increase?

By Tom Harris (not verified) on 16 Nov 2015 #permalink

Tom:

(For those who might not know, Tom Harris is a regular visitor to this and other science blogs, and is well known as a climate change science denier.)

To answer your question you may consult the following sampling of resources:

http://scienceblogs.com/gregladen/2015/06/07/what-does-global-warming-m…

http://www.skepticalscience.com/empirical-evidence-for-co2-enhanced-gre…

http://climate.nasa.gov/causes/

http://www3.epa.gov/climatechange/science/causes.html

http://environment.nationalgeographic.com/environment/global-warming/gw…

#5: "How do you know that the energy being added to the Earth system by increasing CO2 is manifest in a surface temperature increase?"

(short answer): Because high school physics? Because greenhouse effect.

(longer-ish answer): We have measured the amount of energy coming from the sun. We have measured the amount of energy leaving the earth. There is a gap. It is growing. This is very well explained by the radiative properties of greenhouse gases--by trace constituents in our atmosphere absorbing heat in the form of terrestrial radiation, blocking its escape into space and instead re-radiating it back at the earth's surface.

If literally any part of the above is wrong, then literally everything we thought we knew about radiative physics is wrong. Are we taking bets?

By Daniel Bastian (not verified) on 16 Nov 2015 #permalink

How do you know that the energy being added to the Earth system by increasing CO2 is manifest in a surface temperature increase?

Palaeoclimate behaviour.

Ha, foolish warmists.

By focusing on these minor record-breaking hot days, months, and years you're only leaving yourselves vulnerable for that glorious day when Tom Harris, Tim Ball, Chris Monckton and Tony Watts open the counterattack with the rallying battle cry of "No warming since September 2018!"

Followed up by "glaciers were just temporary leftovers of the LIA" and "if sea otters don't need ice, why should walrus and polar bears?"

We are not focusing on the hot days. We are focusing on causes, changes, variation, and trends.

How do you know that the energy being added to the Earth system by increasing CO2 is manifest in a surface temperature increase?

Or is it sheer coincidence with no known cause that can explain it?

By Chris O'Neill (not verified) on 16 Nov 2015 #permalink

"We are focusing on causes, changes, variation, and trends."

Even worse! Imagine what a razor-sharp mind as mathematically gifted as Viscount Whatshisname could do with that. Or if there were two such viscounts... well, we probably wouldn't even be talking about global warming at all any more.

Taking note of Tom Harris' comment, how many times have you seen the contrarians comment on blogs that " No one is saying that Co2 isn't causing AGW, it's about how much" ?
I guess Tom is no true scotsman.

By skeptictmac57 (not verified) on 16 Nov 2015 #permalink

How do you know that the energy being added to the Earth system by increasing CO2 is manifest in a surface temperature increase?

Oy. CO2 does not add energy to the Earth system. It prevents solar energy impinging on Earth from being radiated away to space, moving the homeostatic equilibrium point of surface temperature to a higher value.

We are on a Science blog, after all... X^o

By Brainstorms (not verified) on 16 Nov 2015 #permalink

@ Tom Harris:

Perhaps you meant to ask, "How do you know that the energy being [retained in] the Earth system by increasing CO2 is manifest in a surface temperature increase?"

That invites counter questions: If it isn't manifest in a surface temperature increase, where is it going? And if it isn't there, what is causing the increasing trend in surface temperature?

Tom Harris:

How do you know that the energy being added to the Earth system by increasing CO2 is manifest in a surface temperature increase?

In a word, Mr. Harris, "science". It's the only way we have of knowing anything about the Universe that's better than divination with a sheep's liver.

By Mal Adapted (not verified) on 16 Nov 2015 #permalink

The Japan Meteorological Agency is one such group, and they have just released their updated monthly data for October.

So October 2015 was 0.19℃ warmer than October 2014 by JMA's estimate. If GISTemp has the same corresponding rise then its October 2015 anomaly will be 1.05℃. That's 1.05℃ of global warming compared with the average of the 50s, 60s, 70s (and 1980).

I wonder what will happen eventually.

By Chris O'Neill (not verified) on 16 Nov 2015 #permalink

During the question period at the Heartland conference where he presented, I asked Professor Scott Denning, atmospheric scientists at Colorado State University the question, "How do you know that the energy being added to the Earth system by increasing CO2 is manifest in a surface temperature increase?" I followed it with, "How do you know that most of the increased energy does not go to increasing wind speed, ice melting or some other energy sink in the Earth system."

He answered that we do not. So stop with your mocking answers.

So, this means that, if a significant portion of the increased energy went into wind speed rise at the surface, the surface could actually cool by forced convection.

By Tom Harris (not verified) on 20 Nov 2015 #permalink

... the surface could actually cool by forced convection.

Continue, please!

However, measurements consistently show that it has not cooled, but has instead warmed.

Now, answer the question posed to you, Tom Harris:

What is causing the increasing trend in surface temperature?

By Brainstorms (not verified) on 21 Nov 2015 #permalink

Mr. Harris,

Mockery aside, and assuming without prejudice that you're a genuine skeptic: Scott Denning understands that Science cannot know anything with absolute certainty, only with greater or lesser confidence. Here is his more contextualized answer to your question:

..we expect climate to be warmer in the future than in the past because we know that greenhouse gases absorb and then re-emit thermal radiation. As people around the world burn more and more fossil fuels, concentrations of greenhouse gases increase, so that solar energy accumulates under the extra absorbing gas. Scientists expect accumulating heat to cause warming temperatures because we know that when we add heat to things, they change their temperatures.

Science, Mr. Harris, is a method of evaluating competing hypotheses by how well they explain the available evidence without contradicting what is already known with high confidence, and there is a rigorous process for doing so. You are proposing that "the energy being added to the Earth System by increasing CO2 is [not] manifest in a surface temperature increase" because "most of the increased energy [goes] to increasing wind speed, ice melting or some other energy sink in the Earth system". You have not adequately supported your hypothesis, and you're wasting your time and ours arguing here in any case. If you wish to be taken seriously outside a conference organized by pseudo-skeptics, you'll need to submit your arguments for publication in more credible refereed venues, such as Nature Geoscience or Geophysical Research Letters.

Keep in mind, though, that Science is superior to other knowledge systems largely because it's a way of trying not to fool yourself ("The first principle is you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool" -Feynman). It relies on intersubjective verification to counter ubiquitous self-deception. If you can't persuade your referees of the merit of your ideas, then it's highly likely that you're fooling yourself. If you're unwilling to accept that, then you are no scientist, nor are you a genuine skeptic.

By Mal Adapted (not verified) on 21 Nov 2015 #permalink

Tom Harris

There are interesting examples of GHG-forced warming from the past that demonstrate - unequivocally - that radiative physics works as expected. The best known of these events is the Palaeocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum or PETM. As a class, these episodes of extreme GHG-forced warming are know as hyperthermals.

How do you know that most of the increased energy does not go to increasing wind speed, ice melting or some other energy sink in the Earth system.

Then what massive heat source, pray tell, is causing the surface to actually warm?

By Chris O'Neill (not verified) on 24 Nov 2015 #permalink