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OUT OF THIS WORLD | What's Up In Climate Change

El Niño boosts Sept heat records, busts Antarctic ice streak


Global temperature anomalies for September 2015, compared to the 1981-2010 average. Credit: NASA GISS


Scott Sutherland
Meteorologist/Science Writer

Thursday, October 22, 2015, 7:20 PM - El Niño helps September set new global heat records, while keeping Antarctic sea ice maximum at 2nd lowest level of the past decade. It's What's Up In Climate Change.

Sept 2015 "trumps" all other months on record for global heat

The month of September 2015 is now the warmest month of September on record, according to NOAA, NASA and the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA). Not only that, but it is now the fifth consecutive "warmest month" this year, following the months of May through August, which also topped their respective "warmest" lists, and according to NOAA, it also takes over a new top-spot in our weather record books.

With global temperatures during September 2015 tallying up at 0.90oC above the 20th century average - the highest for September in 136 years of records - this is also "the highest departure from average for any month among all 1629 months in the record that began in January 1880."

From NOAA's Global Analysis - May 2015:

The two highest monthly departures from average occurred earlier this year in February and March, both at 0.89oC (1.60oF) above the 20th century average for their respective months.


Maps and graph from NOAA Global Analysis - September 2015

One major factor for this extreme heat is the strengthening El Niño in the Pacific Ocean. However, it can't be held accountable for all of it.

Last year at this time - when September 2014 was taking its place at the top of the list of "hottest Septembers on record" - ocean temperatures in the central Pacific Ocean were right at the long-term average, and had been since springtime. Yet 2014 still went on to become the warmest year on record as well. Now, with El Niño in full swing and gaining momentum for possible record levels, 2015 is clearly on the path to take that record as well.

El Niño breaks streak of record Antarctic sea ice

In September, Arctic sea ice reached its lowest extent for the year, finishing at the 4th lowest summer extent on record. At the other end of the world, as of October 6th, the peak of the winter Antarctic sea ice growth was reached.

Rather than continue a streak of "record high" years that's been happening there over the past few years, however, this year the extent was the lowest winter maximum since at least 2011 (and probably back to 2009), according to the US National Snow and Ice Data Center, and it was the second lowest maximum in the more than a decade. Furthermore, sea ice extent around the Antarctic continent during the latter half of September was actually below average for that time of year.


Credit: National Snow and Ice Data Center

According to the NSIDC:

This year’s maximum was the sixteenth highest in the 35-year record. It was 120,000 square kilometers above the average maximum daily extent computed over the 1981 to 2010 period of 18.71 million square kilometers , and 1.33 million square kilometers below the record maximum set in 2014. The date of the maximum was quite late in comparison to the 35-year satellite record. Only one year, 2002, has had a later maximum (October 12).

Watch Below: This animation shows the growth of sea ice around the Antarctic continent from March 2 to October 6, 2015.

Sources: NOAA NCEI | NOAA CPC | NSIDC

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