While it’s still too early to tell for definite where the upcoming summer minimum is going to be, the good news is that it looks as though we may end up with a new minimum temperature in the middle of the decade. With greenhouse gas emissions keeping pace with our ever-growing needs, the Earth’s average temperature will continue to slowly warm as we go into the autumn and winter. However, we can start checking the trend lines and making some educated guesses about what could happen in the months ahead.
So, what are the latest temperature readings? The International Airport Data Program, or the Airport Earth System Modeling project, recently created a three-month average over the eastern Pacific Ocean. It found that the July temperatures were the highest since records began at the turn of the millennium. The global average temperature for the month of July was also the highest for that month since records began. While it’s too soon to make an accurate prediction, there’s no question that the high temperatures experienced recently has pushed temperatures to their extreme.
One thing we do know is that global temperatures are higher now than they have been in over two decades. While it’s difficult to attribute to any one cause, most experts agree that recent climate changes are being caused by human interaction with the planet’s environment, especially with the release of carbon dioxide and methane into the atmosphere. One study that was recently published in Nature Geology suggests that the rapid rate of climate change is unprecedented in the past millennium.
But even with the increasing global average temperature, we can’t count on a single forecast to accurately predict what the weather will look like for the rest of the summer. One reason is that the Earth’s climate is not in a consistent state right now. Although the planet has been steadily warming since pre-industrial levels, it has actually cooled slightly in the last 50 years or so. What we can count on is the overall pattern of temperature, which indicates that there may be a period of warmth followed by a period of coolness, called a ‘honeymoon’. There may also be a plateau in between, called an ‘icebox’ period.
Based on models used by scientists, the latest study suggests that the current global average temperature is likely to continue to increase for up to as much as another five months before the start of another La Nioca Island summer. During this period, the results show that sea surface temperatures will remain at their lowest levels since records began. For the tropical Pacific, this will typically last from late May through early September. However, the temperature will temporarily increase again around the same time.
Based on this research, it appears that the recent years have been the hottest on record, but the Earth is expected to return to a longer-term mean temperature after the next few decades. One possible explanation for the short-term decrease in global average temperature, noted in the research paper, could be related to El Nino, one of two natural climate cycles. If and when the phenomenon rears its head again, it could bring with it a strong El Nino condition, which is associated with global cooling. This cooling would reverse the recent warm period, bringing Earth back into a more balanced state.
While the short-term slowdown in surface temperature measurements has caused some concern among researchers, there is no indication that this recent drop in temperatures is set to continue. Global average temperature measurements show no statistically significant change over the last 15 years. There are still a number of long-term temperature measurements taken, however, including those taken from the upper atmosphere, to detect the movement of heat.
Some of the longest known surface temperature records show no significant change in global mean temperatures since the mid-20th century, contradicting claims by contrarians that global warming is occurring. The new research, concluded that the hiatus in surface temperatures is caused by a combination of natural variability and human influences. While the pause in warming is not new, evidence has emerged that some of the factors causing the slowdown are very short term in nature, and only recently started to become a major global problem. It is likely that in the coming years, surface temperature will resume to an increase above the average. While this will happen gradually, it will undoubtedly mark the beginning of a new era in global climate, one that most experts are hoping will bring with it some much-needed rain.