A map of temperature anomalies during October. Red shows the biggest deviation from the standard (temperatures recorded between 1951 and 1980).

If you’ve been wondering why your coats stayed in the closet and your heater remained off for the first part of fall, wonder no more. This October was the warmest on record. Ever.

Last month beat out all the other Octobers to get the title of hottest Octobersince record-keeping began in the late 1800’s. It was also the highest deviation from ‘normal’ global temperatures. Those temperatures were recorded between 1951 and 1980, and are averaged to get a general baseline. The data comes from NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, which looks at temperature changes over long periods of time (decades as opposed to days).

If it sounds like a familiar story, that’s because it is. Last winter was one of the warmest on record, even with all the snow. 2014 and 2012 were also record-breaking years, and with the addition of October to its already hot lineup, 2015 is likely to surpass both.

Extreme heat is now 4 times more likely than it was before the industrial revolution, and that shows no signs of stopping.



Close cousins? Comparison between Earth and Kepler-452b and their host stars


Scientists using data from NASA’s Kepler mission have confirmed the first near-Earth-size planet orbiting in the habitable zone of a sun-like star. The habitable zone is the region around a star where temperatures are just right for water to exist in its liquid form.

The artistic concept compares Earth (left) to the new planet, called Kepler-452b, which is about 60 percent larger. The illustration represents one possible appearance for Kepler-452b — scientists do not know whether the planet has oceans and continents like Earth.

Both planets orbit a G2-type star of about the same temperature; however, the star hosting Kepler-452b is 6 billion years old, 1.5 billion years older than our sun. As stars age, they become larger, hotter and brighter, as represented in the illustration. Kepler-452b’s star appears a bit larger and brighter.

Image credit: NASA Ames/JPL-Caltech/T. Pyle & W. Stenzel

Close cousins? Comparison between Earth and Kepler-452b and their host stars

#DSCOVR today’s new image of #Earth. What made the Blue Marble so special? #EarthRightNow

It was the first full photo of the Earth, taken on December 7, 1972, by the American crew of the Apollo 17 spacecraft. The original Blue Marble is thought by many to be the most-reproduced image of all time.

What made the Blue Marble so special? Sure, it might have been the first full photo of the Earth that we took, but we’ve taken a bunch more since then.

Like this one.

And this one.

And this one.

So why is the “Blue Marble” a bigger deal than these? Turns out, it’s quite tricky to take a good photo of the entire Earth.

The first challenge is that our planet is big. The only way to view all of it at once is to get much farther away from the Earth than we do for many of our activities in outer space. The International Space Station, for instance, orbits at a height of just 400 kilometers, or about 249 miles away from Earth.

The second problem is a familiar one that plagues many photographers who are Earthbound: lighting. In order to view the Earth as a fully illuminated globe, a person (or camera) must be situated in front of it, with the sun directly at his or her back. Not surprisingly, it can be difficult to arrange this specific lighting scheme for a camera-set up that’s orbiting in space at speeds approaching thousands of miles per hour.

As a result of these challenges, NASA, NOAA, and other science agencies most often rely on composite images to depict our planet. These images stitch together multiple high-resolution snapshots taken by satellites already in orbit to produce one seamless portrait of the Earth. And that’s what the three photos above are: composite images produced by NASA over the past fifteen years (released respectively in 2002, 2007, and 2012).

Composite imaging is an extremely useful tool for helping people understand the Earth — they allow researchers to capture certain features at higher resolution; reduce the obscuring effect of cloud coverage in certain areas; and overlay various data layers to help identify patterns and trends. Composites can result in some truly remarkable images, like this “Black Marble,” which, by stitching together multiple views of the planet, shows a full global view of the Earth’s city lights.

But there’s something remarkable about a single snapshot of the Earth — an intact view of our planet in its entirety, hanging in space.

Apollo 17 astronaut Eugene Cernan explained:

“…you’re looking at the most beautiful star in the heavens — the most beautiful because it’s the one we understand and we know, it’s home, it’s people, family, love, life — and besides that it is beautiful. You can see from pole to pole and across oceans and continents and you can watch it turn and there’s no strings holding it up, and it’s moving in a blackness that is almost beyond conception.”

That’s why today, I am excited to see that NASA has released its new Blue Marble, the first of many more to come later this year.

This Blue Marble is the first fully illuminated snapshot of the Earth captured by the DSCOVR satellite, a joint NASA, NOAA, and U.S. Air Force mission. After launching in February 2015, DSCOVR spent months rocketing away from Earth before reaching its final orbit position in June 2015 at Lagrange point 1 (L1), about one million miles away from Earth. (A Lagrange point, in case you were wondering, is “a position where the gravitational pull of two large masses precisely equals the centripetal force required for a small object to move with them.” For our purposes, that means that a Lagrange point is a spot at which a satellite can maintain a fixed position relative to the Earth.)

DSCOVR just after launch.

The DSCOVR mission serves several important purposes, including providing scientific data on heat and radiation fluxes across the Earth’s atmosphere, and maintaining the nation’s ability to provide timely alerts and forecasts for space weather events, which can disrupt telecommunications capabilities, power grids, GPS applications, and other systems vital to our daily lives and national and local economies.

And with its Earth Polychromatic Imaging Camera (which has an epic acronym. Seriously. It’s EPIC), DSCOVR will capture and transmit full images of the Earth every few hours! The information gathered by EPIC will help us examine a range of Earth properties, such as ozone and aerosol levels, cloud coverage, and vegetation density, supporting a number of climate science applications.

One of the best parts of this mission is that NASA will make all of the data, data products, and images collected by DSCOVR freely available to the public, including the new “Blue Marble” images. Starting soon, you’ll be able to view and download new “Blue Marble” images taken by DSCOVR every day.

In addition to providing useful data to scientists and researchers, these images will remind all of us that we live on a planet, in a solar system, in a universe. And that we are not just Americans, but citizens of Earth.

Source: A New Blue Marble

#DSCOVR today’s new image of #Earth. What made the Blue Marble so special? #EarthRightNow

This Is How The World’s Climate Changed Last Year

The state of the world’s climate is complex enough that it takes 413 scientists from 58 countries half a year to completely summarize a year’s worth of data.

And 2014 was a doozy.

According to the American Meteorological Society and NOAA’s “State of the Climate in 2014″report, several markers measuring the earth’s climatic trends set historical records. This is the 25th year that scientists have provided this report, and it was full of hundreds of pages of detailed atmospheric and oceanic summaries of what’s happening to our air, land, and water.

“The year 2014 was forecast to be a warm year, and it was by all accounts a very warm year, in fact record warm according to four independent observational datasets,” the report said. The reason: “the radiative forcing by long-lived greenhouse gases continued to increase, owing to rising levels of carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and other radiatively active trace gases.”

The world’s experts know that climate change is happening, and why, and provide reports like these every year spelling out the impacts in excruciating detail.

“The variety of indicators shows us how our climate is changing, not just in temperature but from the depths of the oceans to the outer atmosphere,” said Thomas R. Karl, director of NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information.

For those without the time to peruse nearly 300 pages of scientific summaries, here are seven records that fell in 2014.


Average temperature in 2014 compared to the 1981-2010 average. Adapted from Plate 2.1c in State of the Climate in 2014.

Average temperature in 2014 compared to the 1981-2010 average. Adapted from Plate 2.1c in State of the Climate in 2014.

Though the world knew this back in January thanks to NOAA data, the report confirmed, and elaborated upon, the certainty around the record broken by 2014 as the hottest year on record.

With the glaring exception of the eastern North American continent, many countries — more than 20 — broke high temperature records last year. Much of Europe and Mexico had their hottest years, while Australia, Argentina, Uruguay, and much of Africa came close.

“Australia’s annual mean temperature anomaly, with respect to 1961–90, was +0.91°C, making 2014 the third warmest year for the country since national temperature records began in 1910,” the report said. The year before, 2013, was the hottest year on record.

With emissions continuing and El Nino coming on strong, it should not be a surprise that 2015 looks to easily break 2014’s global average surface temperature record.

Sea Levels

To convey the surreality of their findings, G.C. Johnson and A.R. Parsons, the authors of the Global Oceans section of the report used a tactic uncommon in climatology. Haikus. Haikus for sea level rise and rising temperatures.

Not quite El Niño,
North Oceans’ fluxes, warmth shift,
dance with weird weather.

Seas warm, ice caps melt,
waters rise, sour, rains shift salt,
unceasing, worldwide.

Measuring average global sea level is fantastically complex stuff. Winds can move large volumes of water around, temperature shifts can make the ocean shrink in some places and not others, while the daily tides, currents, and other variables conspire together to sabotage an accurate reading. So experts use a variety of different measurements and data streams to get something accurate and useful. And it told them that 2014 broke another sea level record.


“Owing to both ocean warming and land ice melt contributions, global mean sea level in 2014 was also record high and 67 mm greater than the 1993 annual mean, when satellite altimetry measurements began,” the report said.

Sea levels do not rise when icebergs or ice sheets floating in them melt — the water has already been displaced. Melting land ice does make sea levels rise, and this is the cause of sea level rise that most people know. However, the heat being pumped into the oceans from the greenhouse effect not only increases the temperature, it also causes the water to expand, which makes sea levels rise.

Hot Days, Warm Nights


Most of Europe had excessively large numbers of hot days and nights — daily maxima and minima. Several countries set records for warmest annual values.

“These continuous warm anomalies contributed to 2014 seeing the largest frequency of warm days and nights on record: on a continental average over a quarter of days (and nights) had temperatures in the warmest 10% of the climatological (1961–90) temperature distribution,” the report said.

The winter minimum in most of Alaska was also the warmest on record, which helped it break its regional heat record.

Storms In Hot Water

“Across the major tropical cyclone basins, 91 named storms were observed during 2014, above the 1981–2010 global average of 82,” the report said. “The Eastern/Central Pacific and South Indian Ocean basins experienced significantly above-normal activity in 2014; all other basins were either at or below normal.”

By many accounts, however, 2014 was a weak year for tropical cyclones, especially compared to the large number of strong storms in 2013. But the strong cyclones of 2014 were often extremely powerful.

Of the 91 named storms, seven became Category 5 systems: Marie and Genevieve, Cyclone Gillian, and then Super Typhoons Halong, Vongfong, Nuri, and Hagupit.

“The rate of typhoons that reached super typhoon status in 2014 was 67%, exceeding the previous record rate of 58% in 1970,” the report noted. Usually, only 23 percent of normal typhoons can hit super typhoon intensity each year.

Yearly mean Optimal Interpolation of Sea Surface Temperature anomaly.

Yearly mean Optimal Interpolation of Sea Surface Temperature anomaly.

One factor at play is extremely high ocean surface temperatures.

“But it was the oceans that drove the record global surface temperature in 2014,” the report said. “Although 2014 was largely ENSO-neutral [EL Niño Southern Oscillation], the globally averaged sea surface temperature (SST) was the highest on record.”

Disappearing Glaciers

“In higher latitudes and at higher elevations, increased warming continued to be visible in the decline of glacier mass balance, increasing permafrost temperatures, and a deeper thawing layer in seasonally frozen soil,” the report said. This was particularly dramatic in Greenland. Warm temperatures melt ice faster than snowfall can replenish it, and darker melt pools on the top of the glaciers absorb more energy from the sun than frozen white ice.

This has been going on for decades, and the rate has been accelerating:


The World Glacier Monitoring Service received preliminary data from Argentina, Austria, Chile, China, France, Italy, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Nepal, Norway, Russia, Sweden, and the United States. It indicated that for the 31st consecutive year, the world saw no “positive annual balances,” of the water stored by glaciers. Specifically, the earth saw the loss of 0.853 meters of water equivalent — “the equivalent depth of water resulting from snow or ice melt.”

Since 1980, that cumulative mass balance loss hit 16.8 meters in 2014.


The report said carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide all hit record concentrations in the atmosphere last year, as they have for essentially each year beforehand.

“Carbon dioxide increased by 1.9 ppm [parts per million] to reach a globally averaged value of 397.2 ppm for 2014,” the abstract began. “Altogether, 5 major and 15 minor greenhouse gases contributed 2.94 W/m² of direct radiative forcing, which is 36% greater than their contributions just a quarter century ago.”


Some climate watchers are familiar with the Keeling Curve, which has plotted the carbon dioxide concentration readings taken from the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii since 1958. In 2013, the tracker passed above 400 ppm for the first time in recorded history, and each year since, more days have been spent above that symbolic number.

Using other measurements to supplement the data, the report estimated that the 2014 global average was 397.2 ppm of CO2 in the atmosphere, a 1.9 ppm bump from 2013. This year, the number will continue its inexorable climb, unless global emissions slow significantly.

One graph unknown to most is the methane concentration graph, let alone the nitrous oxide graph. Those, according to the report, show a similar upward sweep. The CFC graph at the bottom alone displays a slow decline in atmospheric concentrations because the world came together more than 25 years ago to address the hole in the ozone layer CFCs were creating, and agreed on the Montreal Protocol. This limited CFCs’ use in aerosols and other products. They were largely replaced, however, by HFCs, which are also extremely potent greenhouse gases.

The CFC graph shows what a successful emissions reduction regime might look like for the other greenhouse gases.

Source: This Is How The World’s Climate Changed Last Year

This Is How The World’s Climate Changed Last Year

Summer heat wave arrives in Europe

An extreme early summer heatwave re-wrote the record books across Europe during the end of June and beginning of July. Daily, monthly, and all-time records fell across the continent. Average temperatures for the week of June 28-July 4 were up to 12-13°F (7°C) above average across parts of Europe—a welcome anomaly during the winter but a devastating one during the summer.


Average temperature anomalies (°C) for Europe during June 28-July 4, 2015 based on preliminary global weather station data. A heat wave across the continent led to average temperature anomalies up to 7°C in parts of western Europe. Image provided by NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center.

Broken Records

The United Kingdom saw its hottest July maximum temperature on record on the first day of the month (July 1) as temperatures rose to 98°F (36.7°C) at Heathrow airport in London. According the UK Met Office, temperatures in southwest Wimbledon reached 96.3°F, the highest temperature ever recorded during the Wimbledon tennis tournament.

In France, Paris recorded its second-hottest day ever on July 2, with a high temperature of 103.4°F while three stations set all-time highs on July 1 including Boulogne-sur-mer, Dieppe, and Melun with temperatures of 95.7°F (35.4°C), 100.9°F (38.3°C), and 102.9°F (39.4°C) respectively.

Elsewhere, temperatures reached 104°F (40°C) in July for the first time on record (records date back to 1943) in Madrid. Meanwhile in Germany, a new national record was set on July 5 when a weather station in Kitzingen recorded 104.5°F (40.3°C), breaking the previous record for hottest temperature ever recorded in Germany by 0.2°F.  Numerous locations also set records for hottest day, including Berlin, where July 4 temperatures maxed out at 100.2°F, the highest on record dating back to 1876.

According to Jeff Masters of Weather Underground, Geneva, Switzerland, observed its hottest day in history (103.5°F) on July 7, which was also the hottest July day in Switzerland’s records and the second hottest recorded in any month. Farther north in the Netherlands, Dr. Masters also noted that the high temperature (100.8°F) in Maastricht on July 2 set an all-time record for July for the country.

Suffice to say, it was not any ordinary heat that enveloped Europe during the beginning of July.


Average upper-level (300hPa) winds from June 28 – July 4, 2015 amidst an ongoing heatwave across Europe. The wavy jet stream formed into an omega block, so named after its resemblance to the greek letter omega. Map based on NCEP/NCAR Reanalysis data.

The atmospheric setup

The jet stream, an area of fast moving winds high up in the atmosphere (four to eight miles), became incredibly wavy during the heat wave, forming what is known as an “omega block.” While an omega block may sound like something straight out of a sci-fi movie, it has a much simpler atmospheric origin. When the jet stream gets wavy, it can occasionally look like the Greek letter omega (Ω). Try to see it for yourself in the figure above of 300hPa (jet stream level) average winds during the heat wave.

These blockages occur when a high pressure is locked between two low pressures on either side. Over Europe, this high allowed hot air from the tropics to move north and essentially get trapped over Europe. Clear skies allowed for the temperatures to rise even further, creating a stronger dome of high pressure, reinforcing the already stagnant omega block atmospheric pattern. The high pressure blocked any potential low pressure systems from moving over Europe, instead pushing them to the north, like a large boulder diverting water in a stream. The omega block over Europe eventually weakened and moved east by the end of the second week of July, allowing cooler temperatures to prevail.

Heat waves—extended periods of hot days and, especially, very warm nights— are associated with some form of similar blocking pattern where high pressure systems get locked in place for an extended period of time. A particularly intense European heatwave in 2003 (Stott et al. 2004) helped cause probably the hottest summer in Europe since 1500 AD and led to a reported death toll exceeding 70,000 during the summer of 2003 (Robine et al. 2008).

With regards to the future influence of climate change, some scientists have hypothesized that blocking patterns like that seen during this heat wave will occur more often in the future (Francis and Vavrus, 2015), but that possibility is still being investigated. Regardless of the mechanism, however, the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change declared that due to climate change, not only is it likely that heat waves have increased across large parts of Europe, but in the future, it is very likely that heat waves will last longer and occur more often. Meaning communities should be prepared for heat waves like this to occur with an increasing frequency in the century to come.


Francis, J.A. and S.J. Vavrus, (2015). Evidence for a wavier jet stream in response to rapid Arctic warming. Environ. Res. Lett.,10.

Stott, P. A., Stone, D. A., & Allen, M. R. (2004). Human contribution to the European heatwave of 2003. Nature, 432(7017), 610–614.

Robine, Jean-Marie; Cheung, Siu Lan K.; Le Roy, Sophie; Van Oyen, Herman; Griffiths, Clare; Michel, Jean-Pierre; Herrmann, François Richard (2008). Death toll exceeded 70,000 in Europe during the summer of 2003. Comptes Rendus Biologies 331 (2): 171–178.

Source: Summer heat wave arrives in Europe

Summer heat wave arrives in Europe

Emerging El Niño weather event is California’s biggest since 1997

As Pacific Ocean temperatures continue to warm and trade winds shift, federal scientists now say that the El Niño weather event that’s emerging could be one of the strongest on record. And that could mean significantly increased chances that storms will drench drought-ravaged California this winter, according to a report released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration last week. Agency scientists say the conditions are lining up in a way not seen since the winter of 1997-98, when downpours filled reservoirs and sent rivers raging during the last major El Niño.

“That’s good news for California,” said Mike Halpert, deputy director of NOAA’s climate prediction center in College Park, Md. “There are obviously no guarantees, but above-normal rainfall is becoming more likely.”

The chances are now “greater than 90 percent” that El Niño conditions that began in March will remain through this winter, according to NOAA’s monthly report on the weather phenomenon. That’s up from 85 percent last month and 50 percent four months ago.

“We are on the right path now. We want to see it continue to strengthen and build, and certainly to not weaken anytime before the new year,” said California’s state climatologist, Michael Anderson.

A warmer ocean

El Niño is a disruption in the weather patterns over the Pacific Ocean, when the ocean’s surface warms more than normal. Those warm waters release heat, changing wind directions and the jet stream. Strong El Niños, when the water is the warmest, have historically been linked to wet weather in California and South America — and to droughts in Australia and Asia.

As El Niño conditions have continued to grow this year, Peru in recent weeks declared an emergency, warning of flooding that may begin there this summer. Citigroup and the United Nations have issued warnings about possible price spikes in wheat and other food staples that would result from reduced harvests in Australia and other countries.

To be sure, California’s next rainy season won’t start in earnest for five more months.

And many of those will be hot summer months with a high fire risk because the worst drought since California became a state in 1850 has left grasslands and forests bone-dry. Scientists also caution that promising El Niños have fizzled out in the past — most recently last year.

But with each passing month, many scientists say, this year is looking more and more like 1997.

That year, an ocean area along the Equator that is considered a key indicator of El Niño trends was 1 degree hotter than normal from April to June. Currently, the water there is 1.6 degrees hotter than average — the warmest since 1997.

San Francisco received 47 inches of rain during the winter of 1997-98, twice its historic average and the most since 1862.

At the peak in the winter of 1997, the water along the Equator was 4.1 degrees warmer than average. NOAA, NASA and other world-leading scientific institutions are projecting that by November, the temperatures in that region may reach close to that — 3.6 degrees above average, the warmest since 1997.

John Lewis remembers that soaking winter of 1997-98. The owner of Commercial Gutter in Fremont, Calif., was so swamped with calls from people needing gutter repairs during the relentless downpours that he had a six-month waiting list. “It was a frenzy,” he said. “My guys were working seven days a week, 10 to 12 hours a day. I had to turn people away.”

But could one soaking winter end California’s drought?

It’s possible, if the state receives rainfall of 150 percent or more above average, filling the state’s largest reservoirs, Anderson said. In 1993, he added, heavy rains brought the 1987-92 drought to a close.

Last month’s heavy storms in Texas dumped 11 inches of rain on Houston in one night, killing more than 20 people but ending a lengthy drought.

Drought persistence

But to end California’s entrenched dry spell, the rain would probably have to start around Thanksgiving, saturating the ground to allow steady runoff into rivers and reservoirs. And then the storms would have to be cold enough to bulk up the Sierra snowpack so that the melting spring snow would continue to fill reservoirs.

Even then, the rainfall deficits of the past four years wouldn’t be completely erased, and groundwater that has been overpumped during the drought could take 10 years or more to replenish, Anderson noted. But the emergency situation now plaguing farms and cities would largely pass with full reservoirs.

So what became of last year’s El Niño predictions, which never panned out? While the water was warm, it didn’t trigger significant changes in wind direction or the jet stream, experts say. But this year those changes are already underway.

“It’s well coupled with the atmosphere. That never happened last year,” said Jan Null, a meteorologist with Golden Gate Weather Services. “We get our rain from the atmosphere, not from a warm ocean. The fact we are seeing the coupling is one of these checked boxes that is pointing toward a strong event.”

Source: Emerging El Niño weather event is California’s biggest since 1997

Emerging El Niño weather event is California’s biggest since 1997

A record-breaking winter

Complaints about the cold weather this month are justified, as some parts of the country have reported their lowest temperatures.

More than 30 weather stations around New Zealand have also had daily maximum temperature recordings that are either the lowest ever recorded, or at least in the top four coldest for July.

Kaitaia, Kerikeri and Warkworth have all recorded their lowest July temperatures. On Saturday Kaitaia experienced 0°C, while a chilly Sunday brought Kerikeri to -0.7°C and Warkworth to -2.3°C.

Lowest daily temps (Celsius) – July

Te Kuiti plummeted to -4.9°C overnight on Sunday, marking it as the coldest July temperature for the town since records began in 1959.  In fact, Te Kuiti has felt its two lowest July temperatures on record over the past three days.

In Greymouth a -2.6°C snap on July 9 put it in the record books as the coldest July temperature there since records begin in 1947.

Cape Reinga, Kaitaia, Port Taharoa in Waikato, Waione in Hawke’s Bay and Ngawi in Wairarapa have all had their lowest daily maximum temperatures also since records began in those areas.

Niwa climate scientist Gregor Macara said the weather was caused by a cold southerly flow that brought icy showers and snow last week.

It was followed by a high pressure system bringing clear skies and little wind to most of the country – not good for trapping heat.

“Clouds act like a blanket at night and traps heat over the Earth’s surface,” said Macara. “Whereas clear skies enable enhanced night-time cooling as this heat escapes the atmosphere.

“This process has contributed to the severe frosts observed lately.”

Niwa forecaster Chris Brandolino said the fact the cold had affected the whole country from north to south was “pretty impressive”.

Data showed the southernmost point on Stewart Island reached just 5.2°C on July 6, the third lowest for July for this location since records began in 1991.

At the opposite end of the country at Cape Reinga the temperature was a comparably mild 10.8°C on Friday, but it was the lowest daily maximum July temperature there since 1971.

“We are in an El Nino,” said Brandolino. “It elevates the chance of more southerlies.”

However, he said the next week of temperatures were expected to rise.

Source:  It’s a record-breaking winter so far

A record-breaking winter