Earth Gripped by Record Warmth During First Half of 2015

By Tom Yulsman | July 20, 2015 7:32 pm
record warmth

Record warmth was seen in many places around the globe during the first half of 2015. Meanwhile, only one small area in the North Atlantic experienced record cold.

The first six months of 2015 comprised the warmest first half of any year on record, surpassing the previous global record for January through June set in 2010.

This past June also was the warmest in the 136-year record, according to the latest monthly update from the National Centers for Environmental Information. (Both NASA and the Japan Meteorological Agency have also ranked June as warmest on record.)

SEE ALSO: Japan Meteorological Agency: For the Globe as a Whole, June 2015 Was the Warmest on Record

As the map above shows, most of the world’s land areas were much warmer than average, meaning they fell within the top 10 percent their historical temperature range for January through June. Vast swaths of the world’s oceans were also much warmer than average at the surface, with record warmth dominating the northeastern and equatorial Pacific, a big portion of the North Atlantic, and the Barents Sea north of Norway.

In particular, check out that swath of record warmth extending westward across the tropical Pacific from Central America. This is just what you’d expect during an El Niño year. And as the NCEI report points out:

. . . 2010 was the last year with El Niño conditions; however El Niño had ended by this point in 2010, while it appears to be continuing to mature at the same point in 2015.

If El Niño does continue to mature, as is expected, we can expect temperatures in the equatorial Pacific to stay high — and maybe even warm further. That could well mean 2015 will end up as the warmest year on record.

SEE ALSO: El Niño Continues to Bulk Up in the Pacific — and It May Get a Boost From the Pacific’s Surge of Cyclones

People critical of climate science have claimed that global warming actually has stopped. In fact, research shows that was never the case. But global warming did seem to slow down.

Some research has shown that heat building up in the atmosphere due to human emissions of greenhouse gases was being sucked deep into the Pacific Ocean, helping to flatten the global warming trend. Now, changes in a natural climate pattern called the Pacific Decadal Oscillation may be starting to give some of that heat back to the atmosphere.

SEE ALSO: As 2015 Begins With Record Warmth, is the Pacific Primed to Dump Huge Amounts of Heat Into the Atmosphere?

At least some of the slowdown in global warming appears to have been spurious — the result of problems with the way scientists have determined temperatures across the globe’s surface. In early June, researchers with NOAA announced that they had made some significant improvements.

record warmth

This time series shows how global temperatures varied from the long-term average for 12-month periods, each one ending in June. Contrary to what critics of climate science say, global warming clearly has not stopped. And the 12-month period ending this June was characterized by record warmth. (Source: NCEI/NOAA)

The graph above shows how the temperature trend looks now, with the revised approach. There’s certainly no hiatus in warming visible there.

As a result of the revisions, the “overall character of the global temperature time-series remains largely unchanged,” according to the agency. But some years and periods were affected by changes to how sea surface temperatures are determined. Among other things, the revisions included “updated and substantially more complete input data from ships and buoys,” the agency says.

record warmth


For more detail on this, please go here. And if you’re wondering how much of a difference the modifications have made, click on the thumbnail graphic at right.

The two lines show how global temperature has varied from the long-term average — the blue line calculated according to the old method, and the orange line according to the new one.  (And here is how the changes have affected the rankings of the ten warmest years on record.)

Nature is fickle, so it’s possible that surface temperatures around the globe will cool during the second half of the year. But I really wouldn’t bet on it. Based on what we know right now, 2015 is shaping up to be one humdinger of a hot year — maybe not where you or I live, but for the globe overall.

If that happens, will we stop hearing claims that global warming has stopped? Politics being what it is — and given that we’ll be heading into the heart of the presidential campaign season — probably not.


  • John C

    On the other hand, we’re also going to be hearing the predictable catastrophic claims from democrat candidates, sort of along these lines:

    “FLASHBACK: ABC’s ’08 Prediction: NYC Under Water from Climate Change By June 2015”
    Climate is an interesting scientific issue, though far, far from well understood in its mechanisms and effects. Too bad a sleepy back water of science was hijacked by so many people to promote their political and ideological agendas that have nothing to do with the weather.

    • nick.gotts

      That’s a complete load of denialist tosh. Climate is quite well enough understood for it to be absolutely clear that urgent action is needed to mitigate anthropogenic climate change. Among those most convinced of this are the overwhelming majority of relevant experts: climate scientists. There has been a well-organised campaign of lies and distortions and outright slander against climate scientists from fossil fuel interests and the market-worshipping right.

      • John C

        Ah…it was so well understood in 2008 apparently, when the science was settled, that I now live under the sea in what used to be New Jersey. ABC reported what was the consensus scientific view 7 years ago, which turned out to be hilariously wrong. If that wasn’t the consensus view, why should we believe what the media are telling us today about climate change?

        This isn’t religion, although many people have adopted it as such, along with all the closed mindedness and dogmatism that goes along with fundamentalist religon. Science involves uncertainty, unlike religon. That’s how we progress. And if anything is uncertain, it is our understanding of how the planet’s climate system operates.

        • blowingoffgodot

          Nobody was projecting that New Jersey would be underwater by 2015 (although some of us had hoped…), that’s an idiotic straw man.

          • John C

            “On June 12, 2008, correspondent Bob Woodruff revealed that the program “puts participants in the future and asks them to report back about what it is like to live in this future world. The first stop is the year 2015.”

            As one expert warns that in 2015 the sea level will rise quickly, a visual shows New York City being engulfed by water

            Then-GMA co-anchor Chris Cuomo appeared frightened by this future world. He wondered, “I think we’re familiar with some of these issues, but, boy, 2015? That’s seven years from now. Could it really be that bad?”

            The segment included supposedly prophetic videos, such as a teenager declaring, “It’s June 8th, 2015. One carton of milk is $12.99.” (On the actual June 8, 2015, a gallon of milk cost, on average, $3.39.) Another clip featured this prediction for the current year: “Gas reached over $9 a gallon.” (In reality, gas costs an average of $2.75.)”
            In 2008, this was the science is settled, consensus view of the near future due to climate change. My conclusion: religion is settled, science is not settled.

          • Tom Yulsman

            Mr. John C.: No credible scientist or scientific organization predicted that New Jersey or even any part of it would be underwater by 2015 as a result of climate change. In fact, if anything the scientific projections for future sea level rise back then were lower then than they are now. And we’re still talking about a very slow process unfolding over decades.

            If ABC really did report that New Jersey would be underwater in a matter of a few short years (but I very much doubt they did) then I would suggest that you do what I have done: kill your television. It is a vast barren wasteland. (Actually, I didn’t kill it. I just cancelled cable.)

          • John C

            The Good Morning America report, which can be viewed on the above link, raises a troubling question. Did a major news network broadcast what was then the scientific consensus, vetted by their in-house science advisors, to millions of viewers? If they broadcast information that did not represent the scientific consensus (no disclaimer as such in the video, quite the contrary), how can the public believe anything the mainstream media report about climate change today?

            BTW, actually it was Manhattan, just across the river from N.J., close enough.

          • OWilson

            Well, you’ll certainly be safe from contrarian views of world and local events, with ABC, NBC, and CBS. :)

          • James

            yes they did

  • James

    if we are heading for global warming why in the last 6 month has is been cold and places in Australia have had snow where they have never had snow before so this chart is a load of crap we are heading for global cooling

  • OWilson

    “The end is nigh. Repent, give up your worldly goods, and ye shall be saved”.

    Second oldest profession, but of course, never comes to pass.

    That’s why it has been a guaranteed money maker for shamans, priests, popes, medicine men, rain dancers, fortune tellers, seers, and oracles, since man got up on two legs.

    The scam works PRESICELY, because doomsdays never, ever, come to pass!

    Global Cooling, Holes in the Ozone, Acid rain, AIDS, Doomsday Clock, Nuclear Winter, Chernoble, Y2 millenium bug, Fossil Fuel depletion by 1985, China Syndrome, burning Gulf War Oil Fields, Killer Bees, Killer Smog, Traffic gridlock, Population Bomb, 200 Million Environmental refugees by 2010, and more than a few “greatest man made environmental disasters the world has ever known”, Exxon Valdez, Gulf Oil spill, Ice Free Arctic by 2015.

    Then they say, “See we told you, we actually did protect you from the coming catastrophe, your money was spent wisely, now about than tall dark handsome stranger you are going to meet….”.

    P.T Barnum.

  • OWilson

    Then, of course there is “the warming”.

    A slight increase in temperatures occurring in a interglacial epoch, where we have seen ice retreating from Manhattan, the great lakes, Greenland and other places.

    Those “records” they scream about?

    Hundreths of a degree, and if we didn’t have the global warming political movement and their new toys, driving the agenda, and hogging the headlines. populations would never even be aware of it.




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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