Right now the US is struggling with bone numbing chill, so it might be hard to digest this latest news: 2014 was the 18th straight year to have surpassed average 20th-century US temperatures, according to a report released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Meanwhile, a preliminary report issued by the Japanese meteorological agency claims 2014 was the warmest year yet worldwide. Final and definite figures concerning this are soon expected to be released by NASA as well.
Warmest year on record
On average, temperatures across the whole country were half a degree warmer than normal, but despite this it was only the 34th warmest year on record. Eastern North America was an exception, yet even so on a net basis the effect was outweighed by scorching heat and droughts in the West.
“This fits within the context of a long-term warming trend both here and around the globe,” said NOAA climate scientist Jake Crouch.
On a state by state level, California, Nevada and Arizona had their hottest year in 120 years of record keeping. Oppositely, Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Wisconsin and Michigan each had one of their 10 coldest years on record. Weirdly enough, for the first time 101 years of record keeping, Anchorage, Alaska, never got below zero in 2014!
“It was a strange year for the US,” said University of Illinois climate scientist Donald Wuebbles. “The extreme warmth and droughts in the western US and the extreme cold winter and cooler summer in the east and midwest were largely driven by blocking patterns at high latitudes in the Arctic.”
On the bright side, 2014 only had eight major natural disasters that caused around $1 billion in damage, according to NOAA. The last five years have averaged 10 such billion-dollar disasters each.
Globally, driving the temperature rise in 2014 were the oceans — the Pacific, the polar and subtropical north Atlantic, parts of the south Atlantic, and the Indian Ocean all experienced the warmest temperatures ever recorded. Global sea surface temperatures were 0.45 degree Celsius above the 1961-90 normal. On land, temperatures were 0.86 C above normal.