We are still waiting for the official verification, but the outcome looks clear. 2014 is likely going down in the record books as Earth’s hottest year (land, sea and air data) in human record. The World Meteorological Organization says, “This is largely due to record high global sea surface temperatures.”
This may be strange for U.S. East Coast and Midwestern folks, as we were one of the few cooler pockets in the world. (See the blue shading on this map, which goes through November’s data):
But those out West have felt the heat this year. Many cities are guaranteed to have their hottest year on record (see map below):
You may be curious about how far back our data goes. Widespread, reliable record-keeping began in 1880. Since then, the global average temperature has risen by 1.5°F. For the United States, temperatures have risen about 2°F since 1895, with a huge chunk of that happening since 1970. NOAA said in November that the December temperatures had to be “at least 0.42°C (0.76°F) higher than its 20th century average” for 2014 to surpass 2005 and 2010 as the warmest year on record. Climate scientist Gavin Schmidt, head of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, says that the differences in temperature between 2014, 2010 and 2005 are small enough that they “are all going to be statistically good candidates for the warmest year.”
World Meteorological Organization Secretary-General Michel Jarraud said in early December, “The provisional information for 2014 means that 14 of the 15 warmest years on record have all occurred in the 21st century…What we saw in 2014 is consistent with what we expect from a changing climate.”
Many climate scientists point to this year being a good example of the longer-term warming trend continuing, a result primarily of human activities adding more greenhouse gases (like carbon dioxide) into the Earth’s atmosphere. What is interesting about this year being a record hot one is that it happened without help from an El Nino in the Pacific, which is an event that generally makes global temperatures warmer overall (remember 1998?).
FYI: Richmond will probably end up being just slightly warmer-than-average for our 2014 temperature. As you would imagine, January – March were cooler for RVA, but only August and November were cooler-than-average since then. All other months were warmer-than-average.