Halfway through and 2014 Hottest Year Prediction coming very close to Truth

Okay, disclaimer first: there may be a bit of a climate ego involved in this post. So therefore it is probably best to start with where we were wrong(ish).

Based on some rather extensive monitoring of climate models over several months [which is a far easier job than it may sound btw] by the start of April this year we were fairly confident the Pacific would enter ‘at least into moderate’ El Niño state halfway through the boreal summer of 2014. By October (as for instance NOAA’s NCEP model showed) we could even have an officially ‘strong’ El Niño (that is, sea surface temperature anomaly over +1.5 degrees Celsius) – we thought.

Well, it is October now, and we know we were wrong:

El Niño development autumn 2014

The El Niño did emerge — but thus far mainly ‘weaker than weak’ (+0C-<0.5C). If you live anywhere near the tropical Pacific, you’re probably happy about that – although, see that same graph, El Niño is still forecast to pick up over the rest of the year.

But before, if ever, we get into trying to explain why those perky Kelvin waves and trade winds don’t (always) just do as they’re told, let’s take a look at the news:

Several leading climate institutions, among which NASA GISS, NOAA, JMA have independently confirmed that September 2014 was the hottest September ever recorded, globally. And there is more underlying data. NASA adds the last six months have been the hottest six months ever recorded.

And that brings us back to our statement (from April 7th). That — even though it had made a rather chilly start(!) — 2014 was likely to become the hottest year ever recorded. All it would take, we thought, judging by the underlying climatic temperature trend, was a slightly positive ENSO state for at least half a year.

Well now. See the image below that NOAA has just released – comparing the current temperature development of 2014 to that of ‘all the other years ever-recorded’ (to the left) – and the couple of hottests years, topping that very long list.

2014 to become hottest year
NOAA comparison of 2014 temperature record up to September with entire range of temperature dataset (left) and selection of hottests years ever measured (right) – including five scenarios for further development throughout the rest of the year. High chance 2014 will indeed become hottest year ever recorded – be it (2/5) or not (3/5) statistically tied with 2010. Click for full-size image.

Indeed, 2014 is well on course to set a record. Three out of the five scenarios that NOAA presents make 2014 the hottest year ever. The two other scenarios make it ‘statistically tied hottest with 2010 and 2005’.

We’ll know more in a couple months time. And we should repeat: if this El Niño continues well into the 2014-2015 boreal winter – then 2015 will in turn beat the 2014 temperature record.

Stay tuned.

© Rolf Schuttenhelm | www.bitsofscience.org

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