Climate activists demonstrate in Paris, Saturday, Dec.12, 2015 during COP21. Image: Thibault Camus/Associated Press

This year will go down in history as the warmest year on record, beating out 2014 for the dubious distinction. That fact alone is striking, considering the sped-up pace of global warming in recent years. However, it's the margin by which this year is beating out all others that is most impressive...


On Thursday, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released a chart that illustrates how far ahead 2015 is compared to the six other warmest years on record. The chart essentially shows that there's no contest — 2015 is running away with the title, propelled by a one-two punch of manmade global warming and a strong El Niño event in the tropical Pacific Ocean:

2015 Versus Other Warmest Years

Global average surface temperatures for the year-to-date compared to the six other warmest years-to-date.


The new chart was released at the same time as data showing that November was the warmest such month in NOAA's database, which extends back to 1880. The November global average temperature, averaged over the land and ocean using a variety of temperature sensors, from buoys to climate sites scattered around the world, was an astonishing 1.75 degrees Fahrenheit, or 0.97 degrees Celsius, above the 20th century average. This beat November 2013 by 0.27 degrees Fahrenheit, or 0.15 degrees Celsius.

November 2015 also became the seventh straight warmest month on record. The amount by which the monthly average temperature exceeded the typical reading was the second-highest temperature departure from average of any month on record.

NOAA also released a longer-term perspective on the year-to-date temperature data, showing how this period compares to all the previous years-to-date back to 1880.

2015 Versus Other Years

Chart showing how 2015 temperatures so far compare to all previous years-to-date. Blue arrows point to the 2015 data.


According to NOAA, the months of September, October, and November 2015 had the three highest monthly temperature departures on record. Out of 1,630 monthly records, eight months during 2015 are among the 10 highest monthly temperature departures from their respective averages, and all of the months of 2015 to date are among the 25 highest.

According to NOAA, in order to avert having 2015 set a new milestone for record warmth, December would have to be at least 1.46 degrees Fahrenheit, or 0.81 degrees Celsius, colder than average. This works out to being 0.43 degrees Fahrenheit, or 0.24 degrees Celsius, colder than the record low December temperature of 1916!

Year-to-date Temperatures

Global average temperatures for the year-to-date compared to all other years.


That is not going to happen based on average temperatures so far this month.

Interestingly, the UK Met Office released its forecast for 2016 on Thursday, saying that it is likely that it will be an even warmer year than 2015, in part because of the delayed warming effects of El Niño.

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