National Geographic News
Photo of a wildfire in California.

Wildfires in California are among the six most extreme weather events around the globe.

PHOTOGRAPH BY DAN STEINBERG, AP

Thomas M. Kostigen

for National Geographic

Published January 22, 2014

From record hot and cold temperatures to floods and droughts, 2013 was a wacky year for weather. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) weighed in Wednesday with its list of the year's most significant climate anomalies and events.

The report puts specific weather events into historical context, with the general effect of suggesting that global temperature rise is driving heightened weather extremes. For instance,

NOAA reports that 2013 ranks as the fourth warmest year on record since 1880.

"It also marked the 37th consecutive year with a global temperature above the 20th century average," the agency said in its report. "The last below-average annual temperature was 1976. Including 2013, all 13 years of the 21st century (2001-2013) rank among the 15 warmest in the 134-year period of record."

Here are six of the most significant climate events of the dozens that NOAA reported:

1. Drought conditions worsened in the far American West.

Although dry conditions improved in the southeast and central U.S., California had its worst drought ever while Oregon posted its fourth driest year on record.

Considering California is the largest agricultural state in the country, the ramifications of the drought are significant. And according to the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, there seems to be no relief in sight as the calendar flips to 2014.

It appears that a high-pressure system, or ridge, is parked offshore and is to blame. Usually these systems don't linger for long. But this one has stuck around for more than a year and isn't predicted to disappear anytime soon. These "high-pressure domes" feed off themselves; as dry air accumulates, it perpetuates the cycle of drought.

2. Typhoon Haiyan was the strongest tropical cyclone on record to hit land.

A photo from the typhoon Haiyan.
PHOTOGRAPH BY ROMEO RANOCO, REUTERS/CORBIS
Victims of the typhoon Haiyan pick up debris that was washed ashore by the storm.

The typhoon brought winds of more than 195 miles per hour (315 kilometers per hour) and killed some 5,700 people, with the Philippines taking the brunt of the storm. The United Nations reports that 11 million people were affected. (Related: "Photojournalist Captures Resiliency in the Philippines After Typhoon Haiyan.").

While the Pacific typhoon and hurricane season raged and recorded above-average activity, the North Atlantic hurricane season posted below-average activity, accorded to NOAA. This adds to the scientific controversy over claims that cyclone frequency is increasing or will continue to increase due to warmer ocean temperatures.

3. Australia recorded its warmest year on record.

A photo of people at a beach in Australia.
PHOTOGRAPH BY STEVE CHRISTO, CORBIS
Beachgoers at Freshwater Beach in a suburb of northern Sydney, Australia.

After getting past the Millennium Drought that plagued the country for more than a decade, Australia last year observed an average nationwide temperature rise of 2.16°F (1.2°C ).

"The warmth was also notable because it was widespread across the country, with every state and the Northern Territory ranking among their four warmest years on record," NOAA said.

Bush fires raged in 2013, sweeping through New South Wales and burning some 200 properties.

4. China and Russia were impacted by heavy rains.

A photo of a flood in Russia.
PHOTOGRAPH BY IGOR LENKIN, ITAR-TASS PHOTO/CORBIS
The flooded residential area by the River Amur in Russia.

More than 140 Russian towns saw their worst flooding in 120 years. In China, one township received half its annual rainfall in a single day. What's curious about these bouts of precipitation is the bursts in which they came. The latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report indicates that there will be more intense precipitation events, or bursts, in various spots around the world and that this trend will continue through the end of the century.

5. The United Kingdom experienced its coldest spring since 1962.

A photo of a person biking near snow.
PHOTOGRAPH BY ANNA GOWTHORPE, PA WIRE/AP
A cyclist rides amid snowdrifts on the roads near Holme Moss in the U.K.

Snow fell in record amounts in northern regions—in late March. This harkened back to the bitter 2012 European cold wave that brought freezing temperatures across the continent, resulting in hundreds of people freezing to death.

Melting of Arctic sea ice and the resulting cold rush of wind dipping south are seen as the main temperature suppressors. To be sure, the dip in the so-called "polar vortex"—which occurs when temperatures warm in the Arctic, directing cold winds southward—sent chills through the northern U.S. in January 2014, making Chicago colder than the South Pole.

6. During melting season, both Arctic and Antarctic sea ice shrank more than usual.

A photo of ice in Antarctica.
PHOTOGRAPH BY REUTERS/CORBIS
A cliff face shows through melting ice in Antarctica.

During this year's melting season, the Arctic reached its sixth smallest sea ice extent on record, while the Antarctic reached its second lowest ice extent.

Even during the growth season, Arctic sea ice was at its sixth lowest point since record-keeping began in 1979.

The Antarctic, meanwhile, reached its largest ever extent during the 2013 growth season. That should have come as little surprise to those who felt the Arctic chill from the polar vortex. Nor was the record reach of Antarctic ice news to the 52 passengers stranded aboard a research vessel blocked in ice for weeks. Many reports reminded readers that event was due to bad weather, which differs from climate change.

14 comments
Andrew Hengstler
Andrew Hengstler

This is some really extreme weather that i didn't even know about except for the typhoon.

Carol Marsh
Carol Marsh

Climate change is its own most convincing argument.

Paul Nut
Paul Nut

I would venture to say that the changes in our various climates can be linked with changes in our oceans; or even beneath our oceans. I clearly don't understand it all but, I am thinking that by exploring the underwater volcanic activity it would hold the key to what we consider climate change...not taking into consideration the changes in the distribution of photochemical smog, which is a separate issue unto itself.


The fact that La Nina (cold water current in the Pacific) has virtually collapsed must be causing severe shifts in the wind patterns worldwide. 


Some things we simply have to learn to live with...and we will adapt...or we will not survive as a species. Perhaps the Earth itself will put out a distress call for a large, icy comet to come to our rescue.


The Universe holds many secrets we are not aware of.

S. Kalai
S. Kalai

climate is a key issue right now and it needs to be addressed seriously.

Diane Merriam
Diane Merriam

So if they think the event could be tied to "climate change" it was, but if it doesn't fit the predictions it was only weather. There are "proofs" in records that have only been kept for less than 35 years. Melting of arctic ice proves the theory but the record growth of the arctic ice doesn't even get mentioned. When ranking warmest years they say it's been in the 3rd highest or 7th highest or whatever, but won't mention the fact that those temperatures hardly vary from each other at all and the overall trend has flattened out for the last 15+ years.


Has the overall climate warmed from the mini ice age which ended in the mid to late 1800s? Yes. That's usually what ends an ice age. Has mankind had a part in the warming? I'm sure we have. Is it all our fault? No. Are our activities the main cause? I seriously doubt it. 


When I see a model that starts with known historical fact and accurately predicts current climate based on mankind's activities, I might be a bit more accepting. I haven't seen one yet.

joseph yechout
joseph yechout

Crank up HAARP,  and bust up that high pressure area.

Or,  has that already been done?

Tuck Neilson
Tuck Neilson

The continued failure of all climate change models to accurately predict events is worrisome to me.   We really don't know enough about what's going on to know for certain how forceful to be in policy changes.  It worries me that those on the left are being so aggressive in pushing draconian measures denying individual rights when the problem is still so poorly understood though clearly a problem indeed.

john Duczek
john Duczek

These continued Extreme weather events will be the only thing that will force Governments and Industry to accept we have to get off the Hydrocarbon merry go round  and move into high gear to usher in Clean Green Energy. We need to bring about the Hydrogen Economy as fast as possible to try and mitigate the  use of the Atmosphere as a dumping ground  for Huge volumes of Carbon dioxide. We have the Scientists the Engineers and the money to move to a green economy.  What we don't have is the Political Will. As long as their are HUGE Dollars to be made from Hydrocarbon fuels by Corporations and Government  they will drag the chain. The change will come when Economic damage from continued regular and protracted Droughts, Wild fires, Floods and Storms  starts to impact on the GDP of Economies around the Globe and shows up in the Profits  and loss of  Huge Insurance Companies and Investment Houses. The pity is the Environment will continue to suffer,  Species will go extinct and people will suffer. It seems as long as the Economic Indicators look good and Stock Market performs well, all is right with the World.   What doesn't get taken into account with the Profits is the damage we are doing to our only home..... The Earth.   What price do we put on the long term health of  that ?.... ......john from Kapunda  Australia..

citizens challenge
citizens challenge

@Paul Nut  

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2014/01/140122-noaa-extreme-weather-2013-climate-change-drought/#forgot-password


@Paul Nut  under oceans, volcano's and plate tectonics has been active for a long, long, long time - nothing new there. (Ever study Earth's geologic history?  It'a fascinating story you should try it sometime.)


Scientist have spent a great deal of time looking at aerosols in the atmosphere, even at the different impacts at different altitudes of the stuff. 

http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/climate-change/guide/science/explained/aerosols

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1029/2011JD016816/abstract



ENSO and other ocean currents move heat around, they cannot create heat. 

http://www.skepticalscience.com/el-nino-southern-oscillation.htm



What makes you think we can adopt to changes we willfully ignore?   Particularly when those changes are barreling down on us like a supertanker.

~ ~ ~ 


Try this science based idea - greenhouse gases are for real.  In our atmosphere they provide our planet's insulation blanket between us and frigid outer space.  We The People and all of our modern marvels have increased that insulating medium by a third and climbing.


Try this experiment, dress comfortably for a nice day, then put a jacket on top of your comfortable clothing and see how you start feeling after a few hours.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~


Ignoring the obvious, is not any way to move into the future.

citizens challenge
citizens challenge

@Paul Nut  under oceans, volcano's and plate tectonics has been active for a long, long, long time - nothing new there. (Ever study Earth's geologic history?  It'a fascinating story you should try it sometime.)


Scientist have spent a great deal of time looking at aerosols in the atmosphere, even at the different impacts at different altitudes of the stuff. 

http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/climate-change/guide/science/explained/aerosols

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1029/2011JD016816/abstract



ENSO and other ocean currents move heat around, they cannot create heat. 

http://www.skepticalscience.com/el-nino-southern-oscillation.htm



What makes you think we can adopt to changes we willfully ignore?   Particularly when those changes are barreling down on us like a supertanker.

~ ~ ~ 


Try this science based idea - greenhouse gases are for real.  In our atmosphere they provide our planet's insulation blanket between us and frigid outer space.  We The People and all of our modern marvels have increased that insulating medium by a third and climbing.


Try this experiment, dress comfortably for a nice day, then put a jacket on top of your comfortable clothing and see how you start feeling after a few hours.

~ ~ ~


Ignoring the obvious, is . . .   never mind.

Jack Wolf
Jack Wolf

@Paul Nut Why not the obvious, and one that the scientists confirmed:  the greenhouse effect caused by emissions of greenhouse gases?

citizens challenge
citizens challenge

@KK Aw @Jack Wolf @Paul Nut  

Yea, and the consensus is the sun will rise tomorrow morning, but the confirmation won't be in until after it happens.


I'm constantly amazed at the cavalier attitude people have towards this planet, and the biosphere we depend on for everything.


Haven't we seen enough destruction to know that this trend will take us into a nightmare future?

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