Global Climate Snapshot: Fall 2013

Time to see what the planet is up to these days according to The Official Data.

Oceans And Ice

1. Arctic Sea Ice. After a record low last year, the arctic ice cap recovered with record growth that left it with only the 7th-lowest minimum ever. But that’s still historically low, so was it just an example of “two steps down, one step up”? Maybe, though the rebound was so high that it rivaled recent recovery years after the previous 2007 record low; in other words, it was more like “two steps down, two steps back up.” But the fall refreeze is stating to fall behind 2008, so we’ll have to see if the northern hemisphere can keep out of its new lower range or not. If not, then YES the arctic still looks like it’s melting.

2. Antarctic Sea Ice. Meanwhile, the southern ice cap continues to refuse to melt. Depending on which data you look at, this year’s maximum was either the highest or third-highest ever, the second year in a row of record or near-record ice levels. NO, the Antarctic sea ice still shows no evidence – indeed, the exact opposite – of a warming planet.

3. Sea Level Rise. The data is still tracking at 3.2mm per year. 2013 is on track for another record sea level, but there is still zero sign of acceleration since the 1990’s.


4. US Heat. The United States is on track to have its 28th warmest year ever – up from 40th through June. That still doesn’t sound very scary, although after last year’s record high it’s still pretty high for a low year, and if you draw a line across the high years from the 1980’s and the low years from the 1980’s they both look like they’re going up. YES the US looks like a warming country.

5. World Heat. The global data, however, remains ambiguous. The year 2013 has bumped up from seventh-warmest in June to sixth-warmest through September, but I’m still seeing a pretty straight line since the late 1990’s, or NO rise in global temperatures for 15+ years.

Weather Disasters

6. Drought. US drought has improved further since the summer, especially in the more extreme categories. 2013 still looks like a pretty bad year, though, continuing the trend of the last 2-3 years, though I’m pretty sure we are still nowhere near the extreme historical drought years of the 1930’s.

Three months ago, the “West” region was on track for a record dry year and the “Upper Midwest” was on track for a record wet year, possibly suggesting an increase in extremes. Since then, however, the regions have fallen to second-dryest and eleventh-wettest, respectively, possibly suggesting that the shorter trends were just noise in a mass of data.

7. Tornadoes. US tornadoes appear to be on track for a record low year, which is remarkable considering the likely poorer detection of such events in the past. As you might expect, the statistics on the stronger F3+ tornadoes show no increase, either. NO things are not getting worse with tornadoes.

8. Wildfires. Despite the headlines, US 2013 wildfire data is little changed since the summer, with the year still on pace for the lowest number of wildfires and second-lowest number of acres in the last 10 years. With the season winding down we are likely on pace for a pretty uneventful year; we’ll look at the long-term data in January.

9. Atlantic Hurricane Season. This year is turning out to be quite a dud, with only 2 named hurricanes so far, neither of them major, and only a month or so of declining activity left to go.

10. Pacific Hurricane Season. The Pacific has had quite a bit more action, with eight hurricanes and and eleven typhoons. I’m not as familiar with this side of the planet yet, but it doesn’t look like we’re breaking any records this year, though I’m not sure yet about long-term trends.


So far in 2013, the Arctic and Antarctic ice levels both look very good, though the long-term trend in the Arctic is still very bad. Things still do not seem to be getting worse with global temperatures, US tornadoes, or hurricanes in the oceans. In January we’ll look at the entire year of 2013 and give an update to the highly anticipated Global Alarm Bell (GAB) Index!