Menopausal Mother Nature

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January 2020 Temperature Anomaly

Above image shows NOAA Land+Ocean monthly temperature anomalies from the 20th century average. A trend has been added, based on the Jan.1880-Jan.2020 data. The trend shows that data in the early 1900s were some 0.28°C below the 20th century average.


When using a 1750 baseline, the data need to be adjusted even more than that 0.28°C, since it was even colder in 1750. The total baseline adjustment may well be 0.58°C, as discussed in an earlier post. Furthermore, ocean data in above image are sea surface temperatures. To reflect air temperatures, a further 0.1°C adjustment is applied. Finally, an extra 0.1°C adjustment is applied to reflect higher polar temperatures (as opposed to leaving out missing data). Altogether, this adds up to a 0.78°C adjustment, which implies that the temperature in January 2020 was 1.92°C above pre-industrial.

Which trend is most applicable?

How much and how fast could temperatures keep rising? That question looks even more important than this 0.78°C adjustment. Indeed, the trend added to even the unadjusted data (in above image) points at temperatures crossing 2°C average by 2026.

The image below shows a blue trend, similar to the trend in above image. In the image below, this blue trend points at temperatures crossing 3°C above pre-industrial by 2026.

As discussed in an earlier post, a 3°C temperature rise may well drive humans into extinction, while the rise could continue to exterminate all life on Earth.

As the image shows, the January 2020 anomaly is well above the blue trend. As discussed in an earlier post, a 2020 El Niño could be the catalyst to trigger feedbacks, including huge methane releases from the Arctic Ocean seafloor. While these feedbacks are already active in many ways, a 2020 El Niño could make them start kicking in much more strongly.

A short-term trend (in red) has therefore been added as well, to illustrate El Niño/La Niña variability and to highlight this danger. Ominously, the January 2020 anomaly is above this red trend as well.

The situation is dire and calls for immediate, comprehensive and effective action, as described in the Climate Plan.


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