June 2013: Smokin’ Hot Globally

By Tom Yulsman | July 15, 2013 5:29 pm

In the map above, the colors show how surface temperatures varied from the 1951-1981 average. (Map: Goddard Institute for Space Studies)

For the globe overall, last month turned out to be the second warmest June on record, data from NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies show.

June of 1998, an intense El Nino year, retains the title for the hottest such month since record keeping began in 1880.

The warmth was not distributed equally around the globe, of course. A few regions were cooler than average. But as the map above from GISS shows, they were the exception, not the rule.

The blue and green colors show where temperatures were cooler than the long-term average, whereas the yellows, oranges and reds show the opposite. One area of note is Alaska, which experienced some particularly hot temperatures during the month.

According to the monthly U.S. State of the Climate report, released today by the National Climatic Data Center, Alaska experienced its third warmest June in the 96-year record. “A heat wave during the third week of the month brought temperatures in excess of 90°F to parts of the state, breaking daily record high temperatures at many locations,” the report states.

For the lower 48 states of the U.S. overall, the month came in as the 15th warmest. Temperatures were particularly high in the West. This likely contributed to the roughly 4,000 wildfires that blazed across more than 1.2 million acres during June, mostly in the West and Alaska. “The number of fires was below average, while the acreage burned was above average,” according to the report.

Another noteworthy detail from the U.S. report: “On a local basis, over three times as many record warm highs and lows occurred than record cold highs and lows.” (One caveat: The report cautions that the numbers are preliminary and could change.)

This is part of a broader trend documented by scientists. For example, a 2009 study showed that a warming climate was resulting in twice as many record high temperatures being recorded in the continental United States as record lows.

“Climate change is making itself felt in terms of day-to-day weather in the United States,” said Gerald Meehl, the lead author of the study and a senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, quoted in an NCAR press release. “The ways these records are being broken show how our climate is already shifting.”

In the Northern Hemisphere overall, similar trends have been noted:

Based on a study by scientists at the Goddard Institute for Space Studies, this animation shows how the distribution of unusually warm days (red) and unusually cool days (blue) has shifted during summer in the Northern Hemisphere. Back in the 1950s, there were about an equal number — just what you’d expect with normal variation in the climate. But over time, the bell-shaped curve slides to the right, with unusually warm days far outnumbering cool ones.

Another way to picture what’s going on is to think about the human impact on climate as akin to loading a pair of dice. Without that impact, each throw of the climatic dice would produce a random result — and a nice bell-curve distribution of warmer- and colder-than-average days. But thanks to all of the carbon dioxide, methane, and other greenhouse gases we’ve been pumping into the atmosphere, we’ve made it much more likely that when the dice are thrown, the result will be unusual warmth.

I should point out that these trends are playing out against a contentious backdrop: The rise in the average annual temperature of the globe overall has plateaued. Skeptics claim that this debunks the idea that humans are having a significant impact on the climate.

But over the long run, the rise in global temperatures is clear. It’s just that the rise has occurred in something of a sawtooth pattern, with periods of little to no warming. Perhaps even more important, if the climate was not warming, we wouldn’t expect unusually warm days to outnumber unusually cool ones so dramatically.


CATEGORIZED UNDER: Climate, Global Warming, select, Top Posts
  • jfreed27

    In a stable climate, one would see an equal number of “cooler than average” and “warmer than average” months, as compared to the 20 century averages.

    Last November marks 333rd consecutive month warmer-than-average


    The odds of this happening by chance is like flipping heads, 333 times in a
    row, or one divided by the number of stars in the universe.

    • Tom Fuller

      Learn some stats, jfreed27. The climate is warming. This is a problem we must address. This summer is weather and should not even be a topic of discussion in climate conversations.

    • peedee

      There is no such thing as a stable climate and absolutely no proof WHATSOEVER that a Carbon Tithe will magically restore the Garden of Eden.

      • jfreed27

        Not so. For the last 10000 years, till the last 100 years man had a stable climate with no overall warm vs cool averages. Now warm averages far far outnumber cool ones With 600 billion tons of extra gig why
        Would you be surprised. And deniers such as yourself e would have us ignore solutions and party on to the abys.

  • Tom Fuller

    Mr. Yulsman, I am writing to beg you not to fall into the trap of characterizing extreme weather as being symptomatic of current climate change. It is not and the IPCC and many other climate scientists, some contributors to the IPCC and some not, have repeatedly said so.

    Extreme weather is currently expected to have an impact starting around 2040 or so. What weather extremists are doing is crying wolf. There is a wolf. This summer is not it.

    • Tom Yulsman

      Thank you Tom for your comments. Just for the record, nowhere in this post did I attribute extreme weather to global warming. I’m sure it’s a subject I’ll visit in future posts, and I’ll adhere to the best of my ability to what the science tells us. But I didn’t visit that subject here. I did note some newsworthy information from the NCDC’s monthly report — namely that there were many more unusually warm high and low temperatures in June than visa versa. I also noted that this was consistent with a broader trend. And I referred to solid research about these issues. Are you taking exception to that? If so, on what basis?

      • Tom Fuller

        Hi Tom

        You’re definitely on the side of the angels in my book regarding environmental reporting and I’m not trying to bust you or keep you on the straight and narrow.

        But so many people are going overboard on this topic that I am really concerned that it will vitiate any further attempts to link weather with climate change when it actually becomes a statistically valid observation. I have little doubt it’s going to happen.

        Here in Shanghai they had a cooler than normal June. Nobody made a big deal about it, which is good, as July started off really hot–we had half a dozen days at about 100 degrees, which is tough as well as unusual. Now it’s back to normal. What can anyone make of that? Looking at one summer is in my mind as useless as looking at the past 16 years of GST. The only points that can be made from the two observations are political and we have enough politics in the discussion as it is.

        Of course a secular rising trend will produce more hotter days than colder and more record highs than lows. But what does it really mean? I submit it means just about nothing at this point.

        • coloradobob1

          ” Here in Shanghai …………..But what does it really mean? I submit it means just about nothing at this point.”

          It means the extreme precipitation events will increase .
          Sichuan province……………. 37 inches of rain in 40 hours

          The 500 year, 22 Billion dollar flood in Central Europe

          The 3.5 Billion dollar flood in Alberta, Canada.

          5,700 presumed dead in June floods in India
          Unprecedented heavy rains caught many unaware

          Seoul, the capital city of South Korea, has reported rainfall on all but three days of the month. Rainfall has totaled 18.04 inches so far this month, more than 200 percent of normal. Around 20 inches of rain has been reported in Pyongyang, the North Korean capital, also more than double the monthly average.


          • Tom Fuller

            The 500 year flood in Europe was exceeded twice in the 19th Century. The flood in Sichuan pales besides the great floods that killed tens of millions in the 20th Century. How many hundreds of thousands were killed in India in floods recorded in the past centuries? It has always rained in great gulps in both Koreas.

            If you’re going to whine about the weather, don’t do it without an Almanac, Wikipedia and the Guiness Book of World Records.


          • peedee

            And yet its perfetly normal summer n the West Coast and continued drought in New Mexico but not like disastrous droughts in brisecone records in 800sAD a.d 1200sAD mamy centuries before fossil fuels.

  • DallasMike

    Earth to Tom Yulsman: there has been no global warming in 15-17 years, depending on whom you talk to. I’m a scientist and I’m disappointed that you don’t adhere to basic scientific standards in your attempt to push your political agenda.

    Even the New York Times admits that global warming is a thing of the past. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/11/science/earth/what-to-make-of-a-climate-change-plateau.html?_r=2&

    • Tom Fuller

      DallasMike, I beg to disagree with you. Despite the flipping of several ‘pseudocycles’ from supporting warmer temperatures to counteracting them, temperatures have not fallen. They have merely stabilized at a high level.

      This has happened twice before in the modern era, although there were slight declines involved then. They each lasted about 20-25 years.

      I consider it to be the most likely scenario that global warming will continue after a similar pause. If you want to say the models are wrong, I’ll agree–most have known that for several years. If you want to say that new evidence argues for lower sensitivity, again I’ll agree. So do many climate scientists.

      But to say global warming is a thing of the past is close to ludicrous. It’s just taking a break.

      • Tom Yulsman

        DallasMike: Perhaps your knee started to jerk before you could get through the entire story. If you had actually read it you would have seen that I specifically mentioned the plateau in global warming. I also explained that when you look at the entire record, plateaus and all, the overall trend is as clear as could be.

        Tom Fuller has provided more detail on this point. Thank you for that Tom!

        • peedee

          Chinese climate scientists found 97% correlation between CFCs and ‘warming’ and essentially zero correlation with CO2, predicting falling temperatures as exhibited across the entire Northern Hemisphere in Winter2013 and playing out right now across the Southern Hemisphere -100 below zero in Antarctica, 1000s of cold death victims last winter will soon be 10000s as the Globalists use Carbon Tithes to crush economies and starve BILLIONS of 3Wrs.

      • citizenschallengeAE

        Global Warming is not even taking a break, (unless you can show how the physics of atmospheric greenhouse gases can temporarily stop functioning…) the heat is just going where it’s easy to overlook, the oceans mainly, but also other “natural” fluctuations,
        … just like a rivers don’t run in a straight line.

      • peedee

        They have stabilized at a ‘higher level’ only 0.6 degree warmer and flatline since 1998, with stromg regression predicti.g further COOLING from the -1.9 degree cooler 2013 winter for the entire Northern Hemisphere, even as CO2 levels continue to increase from their LOWEST levels since the Carboniferous Period, provong unequivocally that ‘AGW’ is just agitprop titheing dogma being run by the Globalist supply-destroyers.

    • ©Dave ℗ Rickmers®

      If you think that’s what the New York Times said I can see we have a comprehension deficit. “Rarely do they mention that most of the warmest years in the historical record have occurred recently. Moreover, their claim depends on careful selection of the starting and ending points. The starting point is almost always 1998, a particularly warm year because of a strong El Niñoweather pattern.”

  • citizenschallengeAE

    Add more energy, heat and moisture to the global heat distribution system and more extreme weather is exactly what you should be expecting. Uber-caution press releases not withstanding.

    Physics, my dear fuller

    • peedee

      Your demigod Arrhenius said,”Carbonic acid and water vapor tend to MODERATE extremes of climate.”o

  • peedee

    90 in Alaska is not unusually warm there were 100s a century ago and 90s every summer when I lived there, ust as West Coast summer this year is very normal after a record COLD winter and late Spring.



ImaGeo is a visual blog focusing on the intersection of imagery, imagination and Earth. It focuses on spectacular visuals related to the science of our planet, with an emphasis (although not an exclusive one) on the unfolding Anthropocene Epoch.

About Tom Yulsman

Tom Yulsman is Director of the Center for Environmental Journalism and a Professor of Journalism at the University of Colorado, Boulder. He also continues to work as a science and environmental journalist with more than 30 years of experience producing content for major publications. His work has appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, Audubon, Climate Central, Columbia Journalism Review, Discover, Nieman Reports, and many other publications. He has held a variety of editorial positions over the years, including a stint as editor-in-chief of Earth magazine. Yulsman has written one book: Origins: the Quest for Our Cosmic Roots, published by the Institute of Physics in 2003.


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