National Geographic News
General view of the Siberian Yenisei river.

The Yenisei River crosses all of Siberia from south to north to enter the Kara Sea. The region has seen record-high temperatures this year.

Photograph by /Ilya Naymushin CVI/AA/Reuters

Marcus Woo

for National Geographic

Published December 20, 2013

Last month was the warmest November on record, according to a report released this week from the National Climatic Data Center (NCDC).

"It's the first time we've seen a big spike like this in the global surface temperature in several years," said Deke Arndt, chief of the climate-monitoring branch of the NCDC, which is part of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

November's worldwide average was 1.40°F (0.78°C) higher than the 20th-century global average temperature of 55.2°F (12.9°C). It was the sixth warmest of any month since record-keeping began in 1880, marking the 345th consecutive month—more than 28 years—that temperatures were above the 20th century's average. (See "Rising Temperatures May Cause More Katrinas.")

"This surprised us a little bit when we saw the numbers come in," Arndt said. While 2010 was the hottest year on record, global temperatures have tapered off since then. (See "Does 'Global Warming Pause' Debate Miss Big Picture?")

There weren't any large-scale patterns that would have hinted at such an upswing. Unlike in 2010, there was no El Niño event this year, which would have had a slight warming effect.

Previously, the hottest November was in 2004, which was 1.37°F (0.75°C) warmer than the average. The new record may not seem much warmer, Arndt said, but the leap is significant considering the fact that the numbers are averaged across the entire world.

Although such a spike in itself doesn't prove or validate anything about climate change, it's consistent with the overall global trend of rising temperatures, he said. "It's a single piece of evidence that tends to support what we've seen over the last 30 years, that the average surface temperature of the planet is getting warmer." (See also "New Study Predicts Year Your City's Climate Will Change.")

Hot, Hot, Hot

The month was so warm despite the fact that the U.S. was 0.27°F (0.15°C) cooler than average. Other parts of North America, northern Australia, Greenland, and the waters south of South America were also slightly cooler.

But the rest of the world more than made up for it. For example, Russia experienced the hottest November since the country started keeping records in 1891. Parts of the Ural Mountains in Siberia and the arctic islands in the Kara Sea experienced temperatures that were 14°F (8°C) higher than the average.

The first 11 months of 2013 are tied with 2002 as the fourth warmest such period, putting this year on pace to be one of the hottest ever recorded. (See also "2012: Hottest Year on Record for Continental U.S.")

The report also noted that in November, the sea-ice cover in Antarctica spanned 6.63 million square miles (17.1 million square kilometers), 5.3 percent more than the average between 1981 and 2010 and breaking the 2010 record by 90,000 square miles (233,000 square kilometers).

Recent months have seen record or near-record sea-ice extent in Antarctica, puzzling scientists, Arndt said. In terms of ocean currents and atmospheric patterns, Antarctica is somewhat isolated from the rest of the world, which may help to explain this anomaly.

Still, Arndt said, the recent upsurge in Antarctic ice is much less than all the ice that has been lost so far in the Arctic.

In November, Arctic sea-ice continued its downward trend, dwindling by 6.8 percent below the 1981-2010 average of 4.24 million square miles (10.8 million square kilometers). November was also the month with the sixth-lowest extent of Arctic sea ice in 35 years of record-keeping.

14 comments
Angelina DiMarco
Angelina DiMarco

I don't know what it is about global warming that gets everyone all touchy and sparks a million of the same debate. Maybe people just don't want to believe the world could get any worse than it's been. I sure don't. However, whatever the facts are, I'm sure that everyone can at the very least agree that if we don't know with 100% accuracy what will happen in the next century, the very least we can do is stop cranking out carbon emissions like there's no tomorrow.

Richard Parker
Richard Parker

I had to send this to a friend who complained non stop about how much colder this November was in Houston than last November. Southern California has also been colder. All the data we have on past weather patterns only can tell us what happened in the past. It doesn't necessarily mean that the next year is going to fit in that pattern. Plus, the fact is, we only have data from a fraction of Earth's existence. Given how much we know Earth has changed, we can expect it to keep changing.

john Duczek
john Duczek

Hey Guys, seems to be a bit of sarcasm in the Comments. No one will take anything you say seriously if you pursue this line. Everyone makes mistakes.....acting like this is a kinder garden achieves nothing. For that matter no one will bother reading the comments. Engaging in name calling will see the Editors simply stop all comments on articles as has happened on other forums. Bit of decorum please.....

craig hill
craig hill

8 C in Siberia! We are literally cooked, currently cooking.

Lucy Martinez
Lucy Martinez

I was about to share this interesting article, when I noted Bruce's comment.  I will hold off sharing, until the numbers are verified or corrected.  Thank you, Bruce, you have saved me from a great deal of embarrassment, as well as angry retorts!

Bruce Davidson
Bruce Davidson

A mile is bigger than a kilometre, so how can 6.63 million square miles be equal to 1.71 million square kilometres? Or 4.24 million square miles be equal to 1.08 million square kilometres? Even more surprising is that 90,000 square miles equals 233,000 square kilometres? Something is very wrong with the numbers.

Cameron Spitzer
Cameron Spitzer

@Angelina DiMarco It's an ego defense.  Talk to a really adamant climate science denier and you'll find he's committed to some strong ideology that doesn't have any way to fix the problem.  And the ideology teaches its followers they're the only ones who really know what's going on.  Findings from climate science as it's developed over 150 years show there's a problem with disposing of CO2 into the atmosphere.  It's hazardous waste in the quantities we make it.  There's noting in Heyek or Cato or Rand, for three examples, where we can fix that.  So the follower of the extreme ideology is either the smartest guy in the room and all the world's national science academies are wrong, or science is right and he's been duped by public relations flacks for the fossil fuel industry telling him what he wants to hear.  Finding out you're a dupe is a crushing blow to the ego.  The mind erects defenses against that kind of injury.  The victim gets "all touchy as Angelina noticed, or finds the threatening new information incomprehensible or funny.

craig hill
craig hill

@John C. Based on historic cycles of heating and cooling, does not take into account one iota of current warming data. STUPID!

John C.
John C.

You mean the lack of warming for the past 17 years that the models never predicted? Get back to us when the climate models can predict what actually happens with the climate.

John C.
John C.

They're probably a lot more fun to hang with than the pompous stiffs at IPCC, and just as accurate.

Dane Rios
Dane Rios

Hey Rob, the article was edited between the time Bruce commented and your snide comment, maybe wash your brain out and stop being so mean spirited and gullible.

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