Column: Climate concerns as the warmest year nears

Last weekend’s cold outblast notwithstanding, this winter is potentially shaping up to be warmer and dryer than normal.

Last weekend’s cold outblast notwithstanding, this winter is potentially shaping up to be warmer and dryer than normal.

“El Nino is here and it’s now bobbing up and down in the water,” said David Phillips, senior climatologist with Environment Canada. “For the west coast, we’re calling for a milder than normal winter. We will see over the next week or so that it will warm up to more normal temperatures. December will be milder than normal. So the warm-up is beginning and will hold true during the winter.”

It was El Nino that produced the mild winter in Canada in 2009/10 which was among the warmest winters on record. It was made all the more memorable when we had to truck in snow from Manning Park and the Interior for the 2010 Winter Olympics. But this current warming trend has been getting well established throughout the fall.

“With fall mean temperatures at 12.72 degrees C (1.82 degrees C above normal), it was the mildest September to November period since Chilliwack records started in 1895,” said Roger Pannett, volunteer weather observer for Environment Canada. “Mean temperatures (for November) and total rainfall were slightly above normal. However, for the third consecutive year, the Chilliwack area received no measurable November snowfall, a trend not seen for 14 years.”

November sported some pretty memorable extremes of temperature. The 35th record breaking high temperature of the year happened on November 6.

“The temperature peaked for the month at 19.6 degrees C (8.9 degrees C above normal) and smashing the previous record for the day at 17.8 degrees c in 1960,” said Pannett. “It was the warmest November day in Chilliwack in 39 years since the 20.6 degrees C on November 4 1975.

Even night temperatures were record breakers. Pannett said that, during the night of November 26th/27th, temperatures peaked at a record-breaking 15.0 degrees C (warmer than a summer night!), an amazing 13.6 degrees C above normal and exceeding the previous record maximum of 13.0 degrees C in 1980.

Then it all did a backflip.

“During the evening of November 28th, with the Arctic front and an associated brief snowfall in the gusty, northeast winds, temperatures dropped to -19.8 degrees C in 24 hours!” said Pannett.

This fall warming trend has been shaping up globally. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, “The globally averaged temperature over land and ocean surfaces for October 2014 was the highest on record for the month since record keeping began in 1880. It also marked the 38th consecutive October with a global temperature above the 20th century average.”

The UN World Meteorological Organization (WMO) stated that the global averaged temperature from January to October was the highest on record. The high October temperature was driven by warmth across the globe over both land and ocean surfaces. It was fairly evenly distributed between the northern and southern hemispheres. The Southern Hemisphere had its hottest October on record and the Northern Hemisphere had its third warmest.

According to the WMO, the Tokyo Climate Centre, which is a WMO Regional Climate Centre, also reported that October was the hottest on record. The data was confirmed by NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies.

On December 3, WMO’s provisional statement on the Status of the Global Climate stated that “The year 2014 is on track to be one of the hottest, if not the hottest, on record according to preliminary estimates. This is largely due to record high global sea surface temperatures, which will very likely remain above normal until the end of the year.”

Given those stats, this puts 2014 ahead of previous hot years 2010, 2005, and 1998 confirming the underlying long-term warming trend.