2014: World’s hottest year, NZ near average

While 2014 was a near average year for New Zealand weather-wise, analysis of worldwide data has highlighted increasing global temperatures.

According to the 2014 annual climate summary from NIWA, the nation-wide average temperature for 2014 was 12.8°C (0.2°C above the 1981-2010 annual average), making it the 23rd-warmest year since records began. The summary draws on data from NIWA’s seven-station temperature series which begins in 1909.

Notably, New Zealand observed its warmest June on record. More national and regional annual climate data covering temperatures, rainfall, wind and significant weather events can be found in the full summary, available here.

Read commentary on European and Australian temperature data.

The warming trend was noted globally with 2014 officially declared the hottest year on record since global average surface temperatures started being measured in 1891, by the Japan Meteorological Association. Further global data from NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) are expected to confirm the findings this month.

Australia: Third warmest year on record

Last week the Australian Bureau of Meteorology confirmed that 2014 was Australia’s third warmest year on record. According to the Bureau, seven of Australia’s ten warmest years on record have occurred in the 13 years since 2002.

Commentary collected by the AusSMC:

Dr Sarah Perkins, Research Fellow at the Climate Change Research Centre, UNSW, comments:

“2014 was Australia’s 3rd hottest year on record. Although it did not beat 2013, which was our warmest year on record, similar extreme warm temperature events were clearly evident across the country. This included the infamous “Australian Open” heatwave, very extreme heatwaves in many locations of inland Australia, prolonged warm conditions over much of the country in autumn, our hottest ever spring on record (beating 2013), and spring-time heatwaves in south-eastern Queensland and New South Wales. These warm conditions, particularly in spring, contributed to yet another early start to our bushfire season, and recent heatwave events have also contributed to heightened bushfire risk and poor firefighting conditions currently in South Australia.

“We’ve seen 7 out of our 10 warmest years in the last 12 years. Australia was 0.91C above the average for the whole year, which is right in line with our long-term total warming of 0.9C. Our long term warming is slightly more than the global average of 0.85C. Such warming patterns, trends, extreme temperatures and heatwaves are consistent with our knowledge of what will occur in a climate under the influence of increased anthropogenic activity. The fact that we are experiencing such record breaking and extreme conditions, both during consecutive years and since the turn of the millennium is a clear sign that climate change is happening now, and here, in Australia.”

Professor David Karoly,  Professor of Atmospheric Science at the ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science, University of Melbourne, comments:

“The Bureau of Meteorology has confirmed that the very high temperatures across Australia in 2014 add to the long-term warming trend. However, they seem unwilling to say that the warming trend across Australia since 1950 is very likely due to human influences on the climate from increasing greenhouse gases, even though this has been concluded in a number of scientific studies over the last decade. Unless there are rapid, substantial and sustained reductions of greenhouse gas emissions in Australia and globally, Australia will experience more heatwaves and bushfires as in 2014.”

Dr Sophie Lewis, climate scientist at the Research School of Earth Sciences at the Australian National University, comments:

“The Bureau’s Annual Climate Statement for 2014 shows we’ve just had a year of extreme heat. The report describes persistent heat affecting Australia right throughout 2014. This was the 3rd hottest year on record, coming just after our hottest year on record in 2013.

“Many Australian heat records were broken again in 2014 and recent research has tied these recent heat extremes to global warming. We had our hottest spring on record in 2013 and again in 2014, and these extremes were at least 30 times more likely because of human influences, such as greenhouse gases.

“The report shows that recent extreme heat in Australia is also consistent with global conditions. All of the ten warmest years recorded have occurred since 1998 and it is likely that 2014 will be the hottest year globally.”

Northern Hemisphere: 2014 Europe’s warmest year

In December, a new World Meteorological Organization analysis of European temperature data from January through November 2014 confirmed that 2014 will almost certainly be the region’s warmest year on record.

Initial estimates forecast the January-December annual mean temperature for Europe to be 0.3°C above the previous record set in 2007.

The UK SMC collected the following commentary:

Prof Sir Brian Hoskins, Chair of the Grantham Institute at Imperial College London, said:

“The 2014 record levels of heat stored in the ocean because of the greenhouse gases we have added to the atmosphere and the changing climate of the world in the 21st century should focus the attention of the Governments in their on-going climate negotiations in Lima.

“The climate system is not going to wait for them. There must be an agreement by all in Paris in a year’s time that will lead to global greenhouse gas emissions peaking before 2030 and then falling rapidly, so as to limit the damage we are doing to our planet and the risk it implies for all the people of the world.”

Dr Michael Steinke, Lecturer in Marine Sciences at the University of Essex said:

“The unusually high sea surface temperatures will not only directly affect the biology and complex food webs that supply seafood to our dinner plates but weaken the solubility of carbon dioxide and other gases in seawater and accelerate global warming.”

Prof William Collins, Prof of Meteorology at the University of Reading, said:

“The likely record warm temperatures this year add to the evidence that global warming is continuing its inevitable upward trend, and that we were right not to be lulled into a false sense of security by the slower warming of the last 15 years.

“It is worrying that these temperatures are occurring even without an El Nino event. This year has also seen record concentrations of CO2. The good news is that the recent IPCC synthesis report has shown that a combination of manageable CO2 emission reductions and action to adapt to climate change can help reduce the potential harm to society.”

Prof Joanna Haigh, Co-Director of the Grantham Institute, Imperial College London, said:

“The WMO reports that 2014 is on course to be the hottest year on record as well as having experienced a range of exceptional weather events, especially heat waves and flooding, across the globe. Underlying these is the unremitting upward trend in the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

“Only when governments agree to act on a global reduction in the emission of greenhouse gases will the worsening situation gradually begin to turn round ”

Dr Ed Hawkins, NCAS climate scientist at the University of Reading, said:

“Variations in UK climate from year to year will not always follow the global average as our weather is influenced by many factors. However, as the planet warms there is more chance that we will also break records in the UK.

“Looking at the averages for Central England between January and November, 2014 is far and away the warmest on record so far. Unless there is a relatively cool December, 2014 will be the warmest, as well as one of the wettest. This would make 2014 the warmest ever recorded in Central England since records began in 1659 – the year before the restoration of the monarchy – and around 1.5C above the 1961-1990 average.”

Prof Martin Siegert, Co-Director of the Grantham Institute, Imperial College London, said:

“The WMO press release on the ‘provisional statement on the status of the Global Climate in 2014’ refers to changes to the cryosphere (the world’s ice) in a responsible way. Seemingly opposing changes to the extent of sea-ice (growing in the Antarctic, shrinking in the Arctic) are testament to the complex interplay between processes operating at or near the Earth Surface that we are only now beginning to comprehend.

“In terms of sea level, while thermal expansion due to ocean warming is the largest component, the greatest potential for future change comes from the world’s largest ice sheets, in Greenland and Antarctica. Again, processes leading to ice sheet change are different in the Arctic vs the Antarctic. In Greenland, summer warmth is causing enhanced direct surface melting. In the Antarctic, ice loss is via ocean warmth melting the ice edge. Worryingly Antarctic ice sheet loss may be unrelated to recent ocean warming, suggesting future changes could be increasingly severe, especially in certain particularly vulnerable regions where ocean-warmth contact with the ice is predicted over the coming decades.

Prof Matthew Collins, Joint Met Office Chair in Climate Change at the University of Exeter, said:

“With weak El Nino conditions likely to persist into December, this will put 2014 firmly on track to be among the warmest years of the observational record. The question on everyone’s lips is, will this signal an end to the current hiatus in global mean temperature trends and a resumption of the rapid global warming we saw at the end of the 20th century?”

Prof Nick Pidgeon, Professor of Social and Environmental Psychology at Cardiff University, said:

“The issue of climate change has taken something of a backseat in ordinary people’s minds over the past 5 years. We now have evidence that extreme weather events, such as those occurring in the UK during 2007 and again last winter, hold the capacity to banish people’s scepticism. This in turn should make society and politicians more willing to initiate bold action to combat climate change.”