2014 Is on Pace to Be the Warmest Year Ever

In August, Earth’s oceans reached a level not seen since humans began keeping comprehensive records.

Kai Foersterling/ZUMA

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis and more, subscribe to Mother Jones' newsletters.


The story originally appeared in Slate and is republished here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

The Earth’s oceans have never been this far beyond the bounds of normal.

New data released Thursday by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration showed that Earth’s oceans reached a level last month not seen since humans have been keeping comprehensive records. Global ocean temperatures in August 2014 warmed to “the largest departure from average for any month on record” according to a NOAA statement. The previous record was set just two months ago, in June 2014.

Records date back to 1880, though there’s ample evidence that the new record hasn’t been matched in much longer than that.

Climate scientists took the news with a sense of foreboding:

The NOAA data also showed the temperature of the Earth as a whole hit a new all-time August record last month, confirming similar results earlier this week from NASA and the Japanese Meteorological Agency, which use slightly different ways of crunching the numbers.

Additionally, the combined temperature of June, July, and August was also unprecedented in historical records. According to the JMA, four of the last five months have now been record-breaking for that particular month. (July was No. 2, just a hair behind the super-charged El Niño year of 1998.) The eastern United States is among the only land areas on Earth still running below normal for 2014, a legacy of the polar vortex outbreaks of earlier this year.

Later Thursday morning, NOAA expanded on the implications of the new records in a conference call, saying that on its current pace—and with the help of a newly resurgent El Niño—2014 is poised to become the warmest year ever measured.

“If the next four months rank among the five warmest on record, 2014 will be the warmest on record for the globe,” said Jake Crouch of the National Climatic Data Center.

The warming effect of El Niño, which boosts temperatures in the tropical Pacific Ocean, appears to have begun finally kicking into gear over the last week or so. In a separate announcement Thursday, the International Research Institute for Climate and Society declared that “borderline El Niño conditions have now returned in both ocean and atmosphere.” The El Niño is expected to persist until at least March 2015, affecting a range of weather patterns around the globe over the coming months.

Should 2014 become the new warmest year, a lingering El Niño means the record may not last long.

“Having an El Niño would increase the chances of 2015 at least starting out much warmer than average, and approaching record or near record warmth,” said Crouch.

The news came just days before a planned march in New York City, which organizers expect to be the largest ever mass demonstration on global warming in the world. More than 100,000 people are expected to attend, including UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon.

More MotherJones reporting on Climate Desk

Thank you!

We didn't know what to expect when we told you we needed to raise $400,000 before our fiscal year closed on June 30, and we're thrilled to report that our incredible community of readers contributed some $415,000 to help us keep charging as hard as we can during this crazy year.

You just sent an incredible message: that quality journalism doesn't have to answer to advertisers, billionaires, or hedge funds; that newsrooms can eke out an existence thanks primarily to the generosity of its readers. That's so powerful. Especially during what's been called a "media extinction event" when those looking to make a profit from the news pull back, the Mother Jones community steps in.

The months and years ahead won't be easy. Far from it. But there's no one we'd rather face the big challenges with than you, our committed and passionate readers, and our team of fearless reporters who show up every day.

Thank you!

We didn't know what to expect when we told you we needed to raise $400,000 before our fiscal year closed on June 30, and we're thrilled to report that our incredible community of readers contributed some $415,000 to help us keep charging as hard as we can during this crazy year.

You just sent an incredible message: that quality journalism doesn't have to answer to advertisers, billionaires, or hedge funds; that newsrooms can eke out an existence thanks primarily to the generosity of its readers. That's so powerful. Especially during what's been called a "media extinction event" when those looking to make a profit from the news pull back, the Mother Jones community steps in.

The months and years ahead won't be easy. Far from it. But there's no one we'd rather face the big challenges with than you, our committed and passionate readers, and our team of fearless reporters who show up every day.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate

We have a new comment system! We are now using Coral, from Vox Media, for comments on all new articles. We'd love your feedback.