¡Hasta la vista, el Niño! Surface temperature update for May 2016

The huge El Niño of 2015-2016 has now ended and global surface temperatures are now declining very quickly. In fact, the global temperature anomaly fall from February-May 2016 was 0.40°C; the biggest three-month decline since November 1928-February 1929 (0.48°C). Even the times of big volcanoes like Pinatubo did not see such rapid declines over any three-month period. This is surely a result of the extraordinary intensity of the now-departed El Niño.

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Despite the rapid decline, May 2016 was the warmest May in the temperature record and had the highest temperature anomaly for any month in the record prior to October 2015. [Edit, this is not right, actually it was the second highest; January 2007 recorded an anomaly of 0.96 degrees, h/t Sou.] Nevertheless, the period of extraordinary record-breaking monthly records could well be over soon. All of the temperatures shown in this post are NASA’s GISTEMP data.

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The May figures are now below my guesswork projection for 2016. In order to simply match the annual 2015 record, temperatures would have to average 0.65°C for the rest of the year. [Note, I made a stupid computation error in the first published draft of this post, now corrected. Apologies for the confusion.]

The average-to-date for 2016 is now 1.15°C, but with a declining trend now established and a La Niña probably on the way, it’s very unlikely that we will exit 2016 with an annual anomaly that high.

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Using my guesswork forecast for the rest of the year would produce an annual anomaly of 0.98°C, a substantial increase over the 2015 record of  0.86°C.

Here’s a cross-plot of January-May averages for every year versus annual mean temperatures for the period 1950-2016. Using the linear regression line allows us to predict an annual anomaly of 1.08°C. That’s a little lower than the January-May average of  1.15°C, because the slope of the graph is a little less than one, probably due to the fact that the temperature boosts provided by El Niños tend to come in the early part of the year.

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The dashed lines are drawn parallel to the trendline and give an impression of the uncertainty in making such a projection, roughly plus or minus one tenth of a degree C.

In previous months, I did the analysis on the entire 1880-2015 dataset. This produces a lower prediction of 1.06°C for 2016. This is shown below for comparison purposes.

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Including only the modern era of rapid anthropogenic interference with the atmosphere since the Great Acceleration after 1950 makes little difference to the prediction. Setting of a  new annual temperature record for 2016 is almost certain.


Here is NASA’s map of the distribution of global temperature anomalies:

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Self-appointed Climate Auditors may already have noted with confected concern that the global average number in the top right-hand corner of this map, 0.95°C is higher than the the 0.93°C anomaly reported in the downloadable data tables. I’m guessing that this is a typo and the higher number comes from an estimate made before finalization of the month’s results.

The global patterns are quite similar to April’s with a few cooler spots in the USA and east-central Siberia. Hudson’s Bay is now warmer, as is the Antarctic peninsula.

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The distribution of anomalies by latitude shows high-latitude amplification, as usual, with some cooler bans at mid latitudes in both hemispheres.

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Arctic sea ice is still showing a record low, but only just as 2016 appears to converge with the all-time record year of 2012. However, NSIDC reports some problems with the satellites it uses and says that these results are “tentative”. A new low Arctic sea-ice record for 2016 is possible, but is far from certain.

 

 

One thought on “¡Hasta la vista, el Niño! Surface temperature update for May 2016

  1. Pingback: ¡Hasta la vista, el Niño! Surface temperature update for May 2016 – Enjeux énergies et environnement

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