Don't Let the Snow Fool You. January Wasn't Cold at All.

The Citizen's Guide to the Future
Feb. 24 2014 1:41 PM

Don't Let the Snow Fool You. January Wasn't Cold at All.

465180281-jogger-runs-in-the-stadspark-in-groningen-on-january-26
Snow in the Netherlands in January 2014 doesn't mean that global warming isn't happening. Quite the contrary.

Photo by CATRINUS VAN DER VEEN/AFP/Getty Images

The climate numbers are in from January and, on a global perspective, it actually wasn’t that cold at all.

In fact, for the 347th month in a row, planet Earth was downright toasty.

Advertisement

Yep, the last month in which Earth’s average temperature was below the 20th-century average was during the Reagan administration. February 1985, to be exact: “I Want to Know What Love Is” by Foreigner was the No. 1 song in the country. Sally Field had just been nominated for best actress for Places in the Heart. The author of this piece celebrated his fourth birthday party. That’s a long time for a planet to run a fever.

Since that moment 29 years ago, there’s been an unbroken stretch of planetary warmth. Almost as if the entire globe was warming. Hey, maybe we can call it “global warming” ...

Despite the East Coast cold, new data released last week shows January 2014 ranked among the warmest ever globally—the fourth warmest January since 1880, to be exact.

You’d be forgiven if you thought we were going through a cool spell this winter. What with all the right-wing rhetoric from Donald Trump to Rush Limbaugh, the polar vortex has become the latest excuse to deny climate change. It’s cherry-picking—highlighting a shred of evidence that’s unrepresentative of the full picture. That isn’t generally a good strategy to follow, scientifically—but then again, when was the last time Fox News really cared about climate science? The numbers show that even the United States—land of ice caves, boiling-water-into-snow tricks, and Game of Thrones references—had basically an average January, temperature-wise.

FT-140224-January 2014
A month-long cold snap on the East Coast is not representative of yet another month of near-record warmth globally.

Image by NOAA.

Look at the East Coast, and then look at the rest of the world. And then, consider yourself special. You were one of the few people on Earth that had a cold January! In a world of accelerating climate change, that’s almost the stuff of nostalgia.

No spot on Earth—yes, even the eastern United States—had a record cold month. In contrast, parts of Brazil and Argentina, southern and central Africa, Greenland, a speck of the Gobi Desert straddling the China/Mongolia border, the western Pacific Ocean, a large area off the coast of Alaska, and even a significant section of the Atlantic Ocean all had their warmest January in recorded history. The numbers were crunched by NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center, based in Asheville, N.C.

From the NCDC’s January State of the Climate report:

This marks the ninth consecutive month (since May 2013) with a global monthly temperature among the 10 highest for its respective month.

So, not only is global warming alive and well, but it seems to be accelerating in recent months.

In fact, land areas of the Southern hemisphere (you know, South America, southern Africa, and Australia) —where it’s currently midsummer—had their warmest January ever.

FT-140224-Southern hemisphere
January 2014 was the warmest ever for the places that people live (land) in the bottom half of our planet. Good thing this isn’t a trend.

Chart by NOAA.

With a possible El Nino still brewing for later this year, it seems the stretch of globally warm temperatures won’t end any time soon.

Future Tense is a partnership of SlateNew America, and Arizona State University.

Eric Holthaus is a meteorologist who writes about weather and climate for Slate’s Future Tense. Follow him on Twitter.

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

Don’t Worry, Obama Isn’t Sending U.S. Troops to Fight ISIS

But the next president might. 

The Extraordinary Amicus Brief That Attempts to Explain the Wu-Tang Clan to the Supreme Court Justices

Amazon Is Officially a Gadget Company. Here Are Its Six New Devices.

The Human Need to Find Connections in Everything

It’s the source of creativity and delusions. It can harm us more than it helps us.

How Much Should You Loathe NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell?

Here are the facts.

Altered State

The Plight of the Pre-Legalization Marijuana Offender

What should happen to weed users and dealers busted before the stuff was legal?

Surprise! The Women Hired to Fix the NFL Think the NFL Is Just Great.

You Shouldn’t Spank Anyone but Your Consensual Sex Partner

Moneybox
Sept. 17 2014 5:10 PM The Most Awkward Scenario in Which a Man Can Hold a Door for a Woman
  News & Politics
Weigel
Sept. 17 2014 7:03 PM Once Again, a Climate Policy Hearing Descends Into Absurdity
  Business
Business Insider
Sept. 17 2014 1:36 PM Nate Silver Versus Princeton Professor: Who Has the Right Models?
  Life
Outward
Sept. 17 2014 6:53 PM LGBTQ Luminaries Honored With MacArthur “Genius” Fellowships
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 17 2014 6:14 PM Today in Gender Gaps: Biking
  Slate Plus
Slate Fare
Sept. 17 2014 9:37 AM Is Slate Too Liberal?  A members-only open thread.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 17 2014 8:25 PM A New Song and Music Video From Angel Olsen, Indie’s Next Big Thing
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 17 2014 7:23 PM MIT Researchers Are Using Smartphones to Interact With Other Screens
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 17 2014 11:18 AM A Bridge Across the Sky
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 15 2014 9:05 PM Giving Up on Goodell How the NFL lost the trust of its most loyal reporters.