18 February 2017

The Real Surprise Behind the 3rd Hottest January on Record

Posted by Dan Satterfield

The planet’s temperature oscillates a little, between El Nino events and La Nina events. El Nino’s warm the planet a few tenths of a degree, while La Nina events cool it by about that much. The stronger the event the bigger the effect, so a strong El Nino makes it more likely that we will see a new hottest month on record, while a strong La Nina makes that more unlikely. 

All of this is happening as the Earth steadily warms due to the increasing greenhouse gases, and that makes the past few month’s global temp. report so interesting.  We’ve had a La Nina over the past few months and it has just now faded away. In spite of that, January was the third hottest month on record. We are now seeing hotter global temperatures during La Nina events than we did in El Nino events in the past. This January was notably warmer than the January of the super El Nino of 1997-98!

The graphic below (courtesy of Climate Central) shows the up and down of El Nino/La Nina years and the steady rise of global temps. due to the increasing greenhouse gases. Despite what the head of the EPA may think, there is no scientific doubt about this. The only other explanation is the energy received from the sun or changes in the planet’s reflectivity. Research shows that air pollution, however, is blocking enough of the sun’s energy to slow down some of the greenhouse warming. You may hear skeptics talk about the Earth going through “cycles” and it does. Orbital changes over thousands of years, do indeed change our incoming radiation (that’s where ice ages come from), but we know enough to rule out everything but the greenhouse gases. We know where the warming is coming from.

It’s not El Nino, and it’s not some unknown cycle.
It’s us.

The current radiation balance of the planet is shown below. I’ve posted this before but it’s really worth a hard look.

From Hansen 2011. Click image for the paper. Also see here.