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Will 2014 be the warmest year on record?

Male, the capital of the Maldives. One of the world's lowest lying island nations, the Maldives is on the front line of rising seas caused by global warming. Photo by: Shahee Ilyas.

Male, the capital of the Maldives. One of the world’s lowest lying island nations, the Maldives is on the front line of rising seas caused by global warming. Photo by: Shahee Ilyas/Creative Commons 3.0.

With the news that September was the warmest on record globally, 2014 takes one step closer to being the warmest year since record-keeping began in the late 19th Century. Last week, NOAA announced that September was 0.72 degrees Celsius (1.30 degrees Fahrenheit) above the 20th Century average, not only making it the hottest yet, but further pushing 2014 past the current ceiling.

“If 2014 maintains this temperature departure from average for the remainder of the year, it will be the warmest calendar year on record,” said NOAA in a statement.

According to NOAA, 2010 was the warmest year on record, 2005 comes in second, and 1998 third. But this year could top all of them. In fact, September was not the only-record breaking month this year. According to NOAA, May, June, and August were also top record months.

Current warming is driven by continually-rising greenhouse gas emissions, the bulk of them coming from burning fossil fuels, such as coal, oil, and gas. Deforestation and industrialized agricultural are also playing a smaller, but still, important role in driving global temperature upwards.

The fact that 2014 may be the warmest year on record is especially surprising given that it is—not yet at least—an El Nino year. El Nino conditions, driven by warm sea surface temperatures in the Pacific, are important because they push global temperatures up. In fact, most of the warmest years on record are El Nino years.

But to date 2014 hasn’t seen its long-anticipated El Nino. Sea surface temperatures have been high in the region for months, but just always below required conditions.

September 2014 as compared with average Septembers from 1981-2010. Photo by: NOAA.
September 2014 as compared with average Septembers from 1981-2010. Photo by: NOAA.

“Although El Niño conditions were not officially present across the central and eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean during September, NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center favors El Niño to begin in the next one to two months and last into the Northern Hemisphere spring 2015,” reads the NOAA statement. This means that 2015 would also likely be among the warmest years on record.

NOAA has found that if the next three months (October-December) are equal to the averages of the warmest ten years on record then 2014 will be a record-breaker. If, however, the next three months is equal to the average of the 21st Century to date then 2014 will tie with 2010 as the warmest.

Still, NOAA climate scientist Jessica Blunden, told the Associated Press that “it’s pretty likely” 2014 will be the hottest year yet.

However this year turns out, the world continues to heat up. Blunden said that NOAA’s data shows clear global warming, and to those that erroneously claim the planet’s temperature hasn’t risen since 1996, she says, “no one’s told the globe that.”

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