2016 will be warmest year on record

DULUTH -- The long-term trend for northern Minnesota, the U.S. and the Earth continues to be warmer -- 2016 will likely be the warmest on record and October was the third warmest -- but forecasters still are predicting slightly better odds for a ...

DULUTH - The long-term trend for northern Minnesota, the U.S. and the Earth continues to be warmer - 2016 will likely be the warmest on record and October was the third warmest - but forecasters still are predicting slightly better odds for a colder Northland winter.

That was the take-away Thursday as the National Climate Prediction Center held its monthly update on climate trends and expectations.

“It’s likely 2016 will still pass 2015 as the warmest year on record” globally, said Jessica Blunden, climate scientist with the National Centers for Environmental Information, noting 2014, 2015 and 2016 have been the three warmest years on record.

It’s likely 2016 will be the second-warmest on record for the continental U.S.

October saw a record low northern hemisphere sea ice level while, across the U.S., 7,025 record warm temperatures were recorded while only 508 record cold records were set. The average temperature across the U.S. was 3.6 degrees above the 20th century average, Blunden said.


Scientists say they are especially concerned with temperatures in Alaska which “has been persistently warm since the summer of 2013,’’ with record warmth in October for western and northern regions of the state, said Rick Thoman, climate science and services manager for the National Weather Service Alaska Region. “It was the first brown Halloween in Fairbanks in 50 years.”

In parts of Alaska, the median October temperature has increased 10 degrees since the 1990s, Thoman said, likely due to the “catastrophic loss of Arctic sea ice off Alaska’s north coast.”

Even while parts of the Pacific Ocean near the equator are cooling during La Nina conditions, sea temperatures off Alaska are the warmest they have been in 122 years of records, he said.

Scientists say they still don’t know how the rapid and intense Arctic warming and decline in ice cover is impacting climate across North America.

The Arctic “is the canary in the coal mine for climate change,’’ Blunden said.

December normal, but Midwest winter may be cooler The national forecasters called for likely normal conditions in December across the Upper Midwest - including the Dakotas, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan - with near normal precipitation, except for Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, where higher snowfall is possible.

But the winterlong forecast through February continues to show the Dakotas, Minnesota and Wisconsin in an area with slightly more likely below-normal temperatures. Much of the region shows slightly higher chances for more snowfall than normal.

Those slightly better odds for cooler temperatures are driven by a fairly weak La Nina cooling of Equatorial Pacific waters. Those La Ninas often bring cooler temperatures to parts of the Midwest, although they historically have little or no impact on Duluth temperatures.


“It’s more likely parts of the Upper Midwest are going to have a more normal winter compared to last year’s warmth,’’ said Stephen Baxter, meteorologist and seasonal forecaster at the Climate Prediction Center.

Agencies agree on record warmth NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, which uses temperature readings from space for its calculations, said October was the second warmest on record, falling just behind October 2015 by 0.18 degrees Celsius. And NASA also is forecasting 2016 as the warmest ever.

The U.S. government data bolsters the assessment Monday by the World Meteorological Organization that January-September 2016 temperatures were 0.88 degrees Celsius above the 1961-1990 average and that 2016 will be the warmest year ever on record, the third straight record year in a row. The WMO says that 16 of the 17 hottest years on record for the world will have occurred since 2000. The only year of those warmest 17 that didn’t occur in the 21st century was 1998.

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