First half of 2017 was 2nd warmest such period on record

By Tom Yulsman | July 19, 2017 2:28 pm

The month of June by itself was third warmest in records dating back 138 years, according to NOAA

2017

The Mer de Glace, or “Sea of Ice,” is the best known part of the Mount Blanc Glacier in France. It has been receding rapidly for the past 30 years, now at a rate of about 15 feet each year. (Photo courtesy of Wendy Redal)

The Earth has been cooling somewhat since the epic El Niño of 2015/2016. But even so, conditions are still plenty warm.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration rates January through June of 2017 as the second warmest first half of any year since record-keeping began in 1880, behind the record year of 2016.

The year-to-date temperature across global land and ocean surfaces was 1.64°F above the 20th century average of 56.3°F, according to NOAA.

If that does not seem like very much, consider how miserable you feel when you spike a fever that’s only a couple of degrees above normal.

Or, for something directly connected to the warming of our planet, consider the photograph above, taken by my friend Wendy Redal during a trip to France in June. It shows the Mer de Glace, or “Sea of Ice,” an extension of the Mont Blanc Glacier.

Since 1850, the Mer de Glace has retreated by two kilometers, or 1.2 miles. You can see what that shrinkage looks like in this comparison:

Comparison of the Mer de Glace. (Source: Wendy Redal)

Comparison of the Mer de Glace, 1915 and 2013. (Source: Wendy Redal)

As these comparison images show, the ice is not just retreating. It is also thinning — dramatically.

In 1915, it was a short walk from the terrace visible in the lower right corner to the glacier. Since a new cable car system accessing the site was completed in 1988, engineers have had to add more than 400 steps to allow visitors to access the glacier.

june-2017-global-temperature-percentiles-map

The month of June alone was also very warm. As NOAA’s report describes it:

The June temperature across global land and ocean surfaces was 1.48°F above the 20th century average of 59.9°F. This was the third highest value for June in the 138-year period of record, behind 2016 and 2015. June 2017 marks the 41st consecutive June and the 390th consecutive month with temperatures at least nominally above the 20th century average.

NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, which also tracks global temperature, reached a slightly different conclusion for June, pegging it as the fourth warmest on record.

Here's how global surface temperature varied from the 1880 to 1920 base period, through June 2017. (Source: NASA GISTEMP & Makiko Sato, Columbia University)

Here’s how global surface temperature varied from the 1880 to 1920 base period, through June 2017. (Source: NASA GISTEMP & Makiko Sato, Columbia University)

Month-to-month, and even year-to-year variations in global temperature aren’t as meaningful as the trend over the course of decades. To see what that trend looks like, consider the graph above. It shows how temperatures have varied from a based period figured from 1880 to 1920.

That base period allows us to get a sense of the magnitude of warming relative to pre-industrial time. (Since reliable temperature records are pretty sparse prior to 1880, the base period starts there.)

Year to year, there is a great deal of variation — thanks to such natural factors as El Niño, which causes warming, and La Niña, which induces cooling. But the 132-month running mean, shown in red, smooths out those up and down spikes to provide a better sense of the long term picture.

If you’re wondering why 132 months was chosen, consider that this is 11 months — the length of a solar cycle, during which the energy output from the Sun cycles up and down. “The 11-year running mean does a pretty good job of taking out solar cycle variability and shorter-term variability such as the Southern Oscillation,” according to an explanatory paper accompanying the graph.

That red line explains very well what has happened to the Mer de Glace — why it looks so meager in the photograph by my friend Wendy compared to the image from 1915.

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  • OWilson

    New York, Central Park, the Great Plains, the Great Lakes, Yosemite, Yellowstone, Swiss and Alpine Valleys under a kilometer of ice never really appealed to me.

    Like us, I imagine Greenlanders too, would prefer beautiful fertile valleys and verdant farmland teaming with biodiversity, rather than blocked up with dirty ice!

    I mean, look at both pictures and tell me honestly where you’d like to live, vacation, hike, work or play!, not to mention try to grow food or graze cattle.

    And what’s the deal with a cherry picked baseline to “1880 to 1920” anyway?

    The Little Ice Age ran from 1300 to 1870? The Thames was frozen over at that time, so it’s obviously been warming up since then! :)

    • Tom Yulsman

      Whatever you say.

  • Mike Richardson

    At this point, month-to-month global temperature reports simply confirm what the longer term record is showing. Though they may not represent the highest temperature yet recorded, they also show no retreat or reversal from the warming trend, whether one uses satellite readings (which weren’t taken at the same time of day across the observing period) or ground based readings showing even higher temperatures. Of course, it’s nice to see contrarian arguments have evolved from “It’s not happening!” to ” But Greenland will be so pretty thawed out, and you’ll be able to farm there! “. And all we have to trade off for this unfrozen Greenland would be New York, Miami (and most of the rest of Florida), New Orleans, London, Hong Kong, and just about every other coastal city — and that’s not taking into account that Antarctica would also be thawing and contributing even more to sea level rise. Plus, as the photo of the valley on the right shows, glaciers tend to scour the land down to bedrock, leaving behind mainly boulders and gravel, so it’s questionable just how much agriculture Greenland would support without topsoil. Now, that doesn’t seem like the most logical scenario to root for, but maybe I’m just partial to preserving the places where the majority of the world’s population already lives. Maybe we might actually want to consider ways of slowing the meltdown of these glacial reservoirs, rather than pretending that drowning our coastal population centers is fine as long as we get pretty postcards from homesteads in an ice-free Greenland.

    • OWilson

      Just for the record, there is no “evolving” here from the common knowledge, that the Earth has slightly warmed after the Little Ice Age, and that we are in an inter glacial period in the Earth’s history.

      Nobody here is denying that records are being set recently, but by few hundreths of a degree, which was impossible to measure with that precision back in 1880.

      We are not losing New York, Miami and “just about every other coastal city” that is the BIG LIE!

      Satellite photos and Google Time Machine easily prove that all the world’s major cities are actual growing in urban area, NOT shrinking! They are expanding and filling and creating new land for Industrial, Commercial, Recreational, Parkland, Wetlands, even Golf Courses and Airports.

      Countries in the Middle East, and like Japan and Korea are even building whole new cities are being built on land reclaimed from the sea. (In Korea a new Coastal City for 3 million people is underway)

      The 10 worlds fastest growing Mega cities are waterfront cities.

      Still, if you don’t believe in satellites, it’s understandable that you are not aware of this. :)

      Maybe you should start printing flyers to warn the billions who call these waterfront cities home, London, Tokyo, Beijing, Karachi, Abu Dabi, New York, Miami, London, Los Angeles, San Fransico, Lisbon.

      We hear you yourself live in your Luisiana and just rebuilt after being flooded out.

      Why is that? Shouldn’t you be packing again? :)

      • Mike Richardson

        Oh, sometimes it’s just too easy. Since you felt compelled to respond, and make such easily disproven claims, here goes…

        Yes, we’re in an interglacial period, but that has been factored in by climatologists, and we are warming faster than natural causes can account for. The vast majority of scientists, better educated in this field than you or I, agree this is due to accumulating greenhouse gases produced by human activity.

        Because melting ice from Greenland (not even counting Antarctica) will raise sea level by 20-25 feet, it will flood our coastal cities and low-lying countries like Bangladesh. In fact, it already is having an impact on some of these places.

        wsvn.com/news/local/sea-level-rise-is-accelerating-in-florida-scientists-warn/

        That’s a report from one of the affected areas, citing research from — drumroll, please –NOAA. So it’s not a lie, despite your false assertion (ironically the real lie, here), but fact that Miami and other such near sea level cities, including New York, are in peril. They will either be forced to spend vast sums of money for massive engineering projects like sea walls and levees (which the people of New Orleans can tell you are prone to failure) or relocate entirely to inland areas. That will result in greatly increasing national debt (I recall you are quite opposed to that, yes?), and even these options won’t be available to poorer nations. The fact that people continue to build in these areas doesn’t mean they won’t flood.

        So lay off the caffeine and the caps lock, and maybe try to project less when you accuse others of lying, m’kay? You really are just embarrassing yourself at this point, not that I mind. :)

        • OWilson

          You didn’t answer my question.

          Are you packed yet? :)

          • Mike Richardson

            You packing for Greenland? Not that the link you provided actually mentions Greenland, glaciers, or anything supporting your statement. Here’s one that does relate to the topic:

            https://nsidc.org/cryosphere/glaciers/questions/land.html

            Funny thing is, it discusses landforms and the terrain left by glaciers, and it really doesn’t sound like the best farming land. Boulders, gravel, sand and such — and that’s if the melting isn’t so rapid that rivers of meltwater don’t wash the looser soil out to sea.

            The 20-25 foot figure I provided for sea level rise seemed like common knowledge, or something that even a lazy person could Google, but since you asked for citations:

            USGS, “Sea Level and Climate,” – – check the 6.5 meter figure for Greenland–most surveys are in the same ballpark

            https://pubs.usgs.gov/fs/fs2-00/

            An article from the Washington Post here discusses research showing that the melting of Greenland’s ice cap is accelerating:

            https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment/wp/2016/01/04/what-scientists-discovered-in-greenland-could-be-making-sea-level-rise-even-worse/?utm_term=.6efe5672e21b

            Now you can screech “Fake news!” like a demented parrot, or go off on another political tangent having nothing whatsoever to do with the topic of discussion rather accept facts with which you disagree, but it changes nothing. Greenland is thawing, and at an increasing rate. It will raise sea level significantly, likely above 20 feet by best estimates, not accounting for Antarctica and other sources of glacial melting. Greenland isn’t likely to become the next breadbasket or serve to replace coastal centers of population that its melting ice will inundate.

            And, since I have obliged you with citations and sources, I would appreciate the same to support your assertion that current warming is due only to natural interglacial cycles, or that land reclaimed from the sea through engineering projects has exceeded that lost to sea level rise and accelerating coastal erosion. This should be interesting. :)

          • OWilson

            Your sources suck!

            SPECULATION!

            USGS says “that “IF” present trends continue, and IF there is an increase in global temperatures, caused by increased greenhouse-gas emissions, many of the world’s mountain glaciers will disappear”

            “Complete melting of these ice sheets “COULD” lead to a sea-level rise of about 80 meters, whereas melting of all other glaciers ”
            COULD” lead to a sea-level rise of only one-half meter”

            FACT!

            “Sea level has been rising about 1 to 2 millimeters per year due to the reduction in volume of ice caps, ice fields, and mountain glaciers in addition to the thermal expansion of ocean water” (As I said!)

            SETTLED SCIENCE?

            “Better documentation and understanding of these past changes will improve our ability to estimate the potential for future large-scale changes in sea level”.

            As for your FAKE NEWS Washington Post cite.

            Well, let’s just say I expected nothing better from you, Mikey!

            Even my cat can see how you squirmed from we are ” And all we have to trade off for this unfrozen Greenland would be New York, Miami (and most of the rest of Florida), New Orleans, London, Hong Kong, and just about every other coastal city” now to land ” lost to sea level rise and accelerating coastal erosion.

            You are in dire need of trolling advice.

            Better call up the experts, your old pals Dano and CB, because you are an embarrassment to the craft!

            Cheers! :)

            So, again when do you leave your newly re-built home in the South East Louisiana that is being lost to sea level rise and coastal erosion?

          • Mike Richardson

            😱 Wow! So easily triggered, and all I had to do was ask you to cite some sources, as I did. Of course, not surprisingly, you’d rather squawk “Fake news!” and go off on another unhinged rant ( one of your most entertaining by far). But what exactly makes the article “fake?”. It provides its sources, links to actual sites describing the relevant research (unlike your forests site, right?). You’ve referenced Post articles yourself before, so I’m guessing it must be because it says something you don’t like. Kinda like a “troll” is someone who disagrees with you, but never yourself when you jump in to respond to someone else’s response with juvenile insults, links to irrelevant sites, and the compulsory right wing talking points and buzzwords.

            Still, no sources for your assertion that more land is being reclaimed from the sea than post to rising sea level? Or that the warming we’re experiencing now is entirely natural? I’ll grant that both warming and sea level rise can be attributed in some part to processes which were present in prior interglacial periods. But we’ve got ice cores from Antarctica going back through these periods, proving the ice remained present there to some extent at least. And these cores contain traces of the Earth’s atmosphere from those previous interglacial periods. But at no time since the emergence of humanity have those ice cores shown evidence of greenhouse gas concentrations approaching what we have now. So whatever natural background warming we’ve got this time around is going to be amplified in ways our race has never seen.

            Your shouting in caps, acting like a parrot, or obsessing over where you think I live is not helping your credibility of advancing knowledge — it’s simply proving how irrational you’ve become. So when are you voluntarily admitting yourself to the nearest psychiatric hospital for the treatment you so clearly need? You don’t want to force your family to make the painful decision of when to involuntarily commit you, do you? Don’t you love your family? :) Think. About. Your. Family. :(

          • OWilson

            Your strawmen are too numerous to deal with Mikey! LOL

            “Still, no sources for your assertion that more land is being reclaimed from the sea than post to rising sea level? Or that the warming we’re experiencing now is entirely natural?”

            bear no relation whatever to anything I asserted in this thread, and your usual lame cop out of name calling and your ‘psychiatric hospital” nonsense, shows everyone how unhinged you are!

            Once you show that to everyone, my job here is done with you :)

            Bye!

          • Mike Richardson

            Typical, when exposed as an intellectually dishonest hypocrite, you project, then bail. You’re doing a real fine job of proving your sanity here, you know. But something to ponder: Since you’ve referred to Occam’s razor before in your “reasoning,” which do you think is more likely – – that the myriad of folks who’ve questioned your mental faculties (I’m hardly alone in this, as I’ve seen plenty of folks on these sites reach the same conclusion after interacting with you) might be on to something, or that somehow you’re right and everyone else is wrong? Really, the odds don’t favor you, any more than logic or reason does. Seek professional help. :)

          • OWilson

            Your DISQUS rating says you are wrong about that, too, Mikey! lol

          • Mike Richardson

            Someone isn’t bright enough to distinguish between a leading question and a rhetorical question. Or maybe just needy. 😉

            And mighty big of you to offer the last word in a thread I started. But you did get to brag about DISCUS ratings. Not at all like a narcissist. But when you don’t have facts, or even relevant links to sources, I guess such juvenile antics (in a supposedly older person, sadly enough) are what you count as “winning.” So pathetic. By all means, get back to “work.” 😉

          • OWilson

            Now that’s better, Mikey!

            Get back to what you do best! :)

          • Mike Richardson

            No links, no sources, just an ironic complaint of name calling from someone who in this thread has risen above the fray with such compliments as “trolls,” “fools,” ” delusional, ” “unhinged and intellectually bankrupt,” etc. Just further proof that you apparently believe any criticism you level at others just can’t possibly apply to you. I’m quite at peace

          • OWilson

            Have (another) nice day!

          • Mike Richardson

            No links, no sources, just an ironic complaint of name calling from someone who in this thread has risen above the fray with such compliments as “trolls,” “fools,” ” delusional, ” “unhinged and intellectually bankrupt,” etc. Just further proof that you apparently believe any criticism you level at others just can’t possibly apply to you. I’m quite at peace, and much less troubled than someone who has to constantly fight a losing battle with reality. Thanks for the thought, but try working on yourself first and I think we’ll all be happier for it! :)

          • OWilson

            Have a nice day!

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ImaGeo

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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