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A quick look back at global weather in 2018

We’re looking at a 90 per cent chance of a weak El Niño through this winter

To wrap up last year’s weather articles, I thought I would do a quick look back at how the globe fared, weather-wise, during 2018. To start, let’s look back at November: according to both NOAA and NASA, it was the fifth warmest on record with the only warmer months coming in 2015, 2013, 2010 and 2017. Global ocean temperatures were the second warmest on record while global land temperatures were the 16th warmest. Satellite measurements of the lowest eight km of the atmosphere, according to the University of Alabama Huntsville, were the fourth warmest in the 40-year record. The coldest region of the planet, compared to average temperatures, was found across eastern North America.

So far, 2018 is ranked as the fourth-warmest year on record. That means the five warmest years on record have now occurred in the last five years — truly remarkable if you do not think there is any global warming; something to get used to if you do believe.

Looking ahead to 2019, there is a 90 per cent chance we will transition into a weak El Niño that will last through the rest of the winter, with a 65 to 70 per cent chance of it continuing into spring. Since El Niño events usually correlate with warm global temperatures, it looks likely that 2019 will continue on the heels of the past five years with near-record to record-breaking temperatures. What this means for our part of the world is a little uncertain, but is something we will look at this month.

Globally there were two billion-dollar weather disasters in November, which brings the total to 37 for the year. Table 1 (above) is a list of the top 10 billion-dollar disasters of 2018.

Looking at national temperature records in 2018, I don’t think it’s that surprising that there were no cold records broken, while there were six heat records set, as shown in Table 2 below. Thanks goes to the Weather Underground for this information.

Taking a look at the poles, Arctic sea ice extent in November came in at 9.8 million square kilometres, which was 900,000 km below the 1981-2010 average. This value ranks November’s ice coverage as the ninth lowest on record. Except for a short time in November, Arctic sea ice has been tracking below the interdecile range, which means ice extent has been less than 90 per cent of all the other years on record. On the opposite side of the Earth, ice extent around Antarctica has also been running below average, with most of 2018 also seeing values tracking below the interdecile range.

With global ice coverage continuing to shrink and C02 levels continuing to rise, added to the aforementioned weak El Niño expected to develop, it’s looking more likely 2019 will see near-record to record-breaking temperatures globally. Will we across the Prairies continue to see warm winter temperatures, or will we end up seeing record-breaking summer temperatures? To me, it’s only a matter of time before our part of the planet ends up seeing record-breaking heat move in during summers. Maybe that’s what it will take to finally change the minds of those who still believe nothing is happening with global temperatures.

On that cheery note, I look forward to continuing discussing different weather topics with you this year and as usual, I hope that whatever Mother Nature does decide to serve up, it will work out for the best.

About the author

Co-operator contributor

Daniel Bezte is a teacher by profession with a BA (Hon.) in geography, specializing in climatology, from the U of W. He operates a computerized weather station near Birds Hill Park.

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