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U.S. Agencies Agree: October Was Crazy Warm

Oct 2015 world temperature graph
How temperatures across the globe ranked for October 2015. (Image credit: NOAA)

On the heels of the news from NASA that October’s global temperature this year spiked more than any other month in 135 years, virtually assuring that 2015 will be the warmest year on record, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced Wednesday that their data showed similarly remarkable numbers.

The arresting October heat is a sign of both the steady upward march of global temperatures from warming as well as the strong El Nino boosting global heat this year.

By NASA’s calculations, October was more than 1°C, or nearly 2°F, above the 1951-1980 average for the month — the biggest departure for any month in their archives and the first time any month has exceeded a full degree Celsius. NOAA put the departure at 0.98°C (or 1.76°F) compared to the 20th century average. This was also the highest departure in NOAA’s records, extending back 136 years. The small differences are due to the slightly different ways the two agencies treat the data, though overall their estimates are in broad agreement.

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This was the sixth month in a row this year that had set a global monthly temperature record, NOAA said in their release. In total, eight months this year have been the warmest for their specific month.

An El Nino that is expected to rival the strongest events on record is providing significant heat, with ocean temperatures in parts of the tropical Pacific reaching a record level recently. El Nino years tend to be warmer than years in which Pacific waters are colder than normal, called a La Nina, or when they are in a neutral state.

But La Nina years of recent decades have been warmer than previous El Nino years, a sign of the overall background rise in global temperatures because of the excess heat trapped in the atmosphere from the accumulation of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide.

With only two months left in the year, there is a 99.9 percent chance that 2015 will best 2014 as the warmest year on record, according to Gavin Schmidt, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, which keeps their temperature records.

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Originally published on Climate Central.

Andrea Thompson
Andrea Thompson

Andrea Thompson is an associate editor at Scientific American, where she covers sustainability, energy and the environment. Prior to that, she was a senior writer covering climate science at Climate Central and a reporter and editor at Live Science, where she primarily covered Earth science and the environment. She holds a graduate degree in science health and environmental reporting from New York University, as well as a bachelor of science and and masters of science in atmospheric chemistry from the Georgia Institute of Technology.