This winter’s freezing season in the Arctic is falling short. The extent of Arctic sea ice this week is hovering near record-low values for early February, based on observations that extend back to the start of satellite monitoring in 1979. Data from the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) shows that last month had the lowest overall Arctic sea ice extent of any January in the satellite record. Hand in hand with the skimpy ice cover, temperatures across the Arctic have been extraordinarily warm for midwinter, also setting January records.
The year 2015 ended in spectacular fashion, winding up as the warmest year in more than a century of recordkeeping--and it’s wasn’t even close to a photo finish. NOAA calculated that the average global temperature across both land and ocean surfaces for 2015 was 0.90°C (1.62°F) above the 20th-century average of 13.9°C (57.0°F). This makes 2015 the warmest calendar year, as well as the warmest of any 12-month period, in global temperature data going back to 1880. In a fitting capstone to a sizzling year, December 2015 was the warmest calendar month on record.
It was the warmest and wettest December on record for the contiguous U.S. in more than a century of recordkeeping, according to data released by NOAA on Thursday. As a whole, 2015 came in as the second warmest and second wettest year on record. All-time record heat is plaguing parts of southern Africa this week, while Tropical Storm Pali--the earliest tropical storm on record for the Central/Northeast Pacific--has strengthened considerably over the last 24 hours.
In addition to being the warmest year on record when averaged over the entire globe, 2015 was also notable for all-time extreme heat records. Sixteen nations or territories tied or set all-time records for their hottest temperature in recorded history in 2015; two (Israel and Cyprus) set all-time cold temperature records.