The results are in for NOAA, and they show that the combined average temperature for global land and ocean surfaces for August 2014 was a record high, beating out the old record set back in 1998. The June through August global land and ocean surface temperatures were 0.71°C (1.28°F) higher than the 20th century average, making it the warmest such period since record keeping began in 1880. Have you heard the argument that the past 15 years we haven’t seen much warming? Those using that argument are – knowingly or unknowingly – dating it back to the extremely warm year of 1998, when an unusually strong El Niño formed. While we haven’t seen as big of a spike in heating as in 1998, the globe continues to warm and records continue to be broken. Just because parts of the Eastern United States saw relatively cool temperatures does not mean the entire Earth was seeing cooler temperatures. This record was broken after NASA, NOAA, and the Japan Meteorological Agency found that August 2014 was the warmest August ever recorded.
NOAA’s National Climatic Date Center global report for August 2014 shows the August 2014 global temperature across the world’s land and ocean surfaces as 0.75°C (1.35°F) higher than the 20th century average of 15.6°C (60.1°F).
August 2014 officially becomes the warmest August ever recorded since 1880, breaking the old record set back in 1998. As mentioned above, 1998 was one of the warmest years ever recorded thanks to the additional heat in the Eastern Pacific brought on by a strong El Niño.
While it might have been a cool August for you, that was not the case for everyone across the globe. Some of the warmest locations in August 2014 occurred in western Asia, western Australia, and into southern parts of South America. Meanwhile, other spots across the globe experienced cooler than average temperatures including the eastern United States, western Europe, and central Australia.
Remember … climate measures on a global scale take into account whole continents and oceans, not just particular towns and cities.
According to the NCDC, 2014 is on track to become the warmest year ever recorded:
The first eight months of 2014 (January–August) were the third-warmest such period on record across the world’s land and ocean surfaces, with an average temperature that was 0.68°C (1.22°F) above the 20th century average of 57.3°F (14.0°C). If 2014 maintains this temperature departure from average for the remainder of the year, it will be the warmest year on record.
Meanwhile, Arctic sea ice extent – which always reaches a minimum for the year around now – remains well below the average for 1980-2010. As of September 15, 2014, Arctic sea ice extent was 5.07 million square kilometers (1.96 million square miles). 2014 thus has the sixth-lowest Arctic sea ice extent in the satellite era. Arctic sea ice melts during the spring and summer months and typically reaches its minimum extent by the middle of September.
Sea ice grows during the autumn and winter months (March-September) in Antarctica. The Antarctic’s sea ice extent reached 19.7 million square kilometers (7.6 million square miles), making it the largest sea ice extent on record. According to NOAA, August 2014 marked the 20th consecutive month with above-average sea ice extent in the Southern Hemisphere and the fifth consecutive month with record large sea ice.
If you combine the sea ice extent in the Southern and Northern Hemisphere’s, the globally-averaged sea ice extent during August was 25.42 million square km (9.81 million square miles), 0.36 percent above the 1981-2010 average and the 17th smallest (20th largest) August global sea ice extent on record.
August 2014 had the largest August global sea ice extent since 2001. Surprisingly, it is the first time since 2001 that the August global sea ice extent was above average. For more details regarding the sea ice extent and why Antarctica is gaining ice, check out one of our previous posts.
Bottom line: August 2014 was globally the warmest August ever recorded since record keeping began in 1880. It makes the June through August period the warmest such period on record. All of this information was released by NOAA through the National Climatic Data Center (NCDC). Meanwhile, sea ice extent globally is above-average for the month of August, most in part due to the record sea ice extent that has occurred in Antarctica. If temperatures continue to stay warm globally on land and ocean surfaces, 2014 could be close to becoming the warmest year ever recorded.
Matt Daniel is weekend Meteorologist for 13WMAZ (CBS) in Macon, Georgia, and founder of the blog Athens GA Weather. He's a self-described "big weather and music geek" and has produced weather content for CNN, MSN Weather and EarthSky. He has a passion for helping to keep people safe when severe weather strikes and says if you don't have a NOAA Weather Radio ... you should get one.