Earth Has its Warmest Summer and August on Record

By Dr. Jeff Masters
Published: 6:33 PM GMT on September 18, 2014

August 2014 and the June - August Northern Hemisphere summer period of 2014 were Earth's warmest since records began in 1880, said NOAA's National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) today. NASA also rated August 2014 as the warmest August on record. August is the third time NOAA has ranked a 2014 month as the warmest on record; May and June 2014 were the warmest May and June on record (April 2014 was originally ranked as tied for warmest April on record, but has since been revised downwards to the second warmest April on record.) Global ocean temperatures during August 2014 were the warmest on record, and the 0.65°C (1.17°F) ocean temperature anomaly was the highest ever measured, beating the record set just two months previously in June 2014. Global land temperatures in August 2014 were the 2nd warmest on record. The first eight months of 2014 (January–August) were the third warmest such period on record for the globe, with an average temperature 0.68°C (1.22°F) above 20th century average. If 2014 maintains this temperature departure from average for the remainder of the year, it will be the warmest year on record. Global satellite-measured temperatures in August 2014 for the lowest 8 km of the atmosphere were the 14th or 8th warmest in the 36-year record, according to Remote Sensing Systems and the University of Alabama Huntsville (UAH), respectively. Wunderground's weather historian Christopher C. Burt details the notable global extreme weather events of August 2014 in his latest post.

Figure 1. Departure of temperature from average for August 2014, the warmest August for the globe since record keeping began in 1880. Record-warm conditions were experienced over portions of six continents, and a small area of record cold was observed over Northern Russia. Overall, 26 countries across every continent except Antarctica had at least one station reporting a record high temperature for August. The United States and the Russian Federation each had stations that reported record warm temperatures as well as at least one station with a record cold temperature for the month. Image credit: National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) .

One billion-dollar weather disaster in August 2014
One billion-dollar weather-related disaster hit the Earth during August 2014--a flood disaster in the U.S. that swamped Detroit, Baltimore, and Long Island, according to the August 2014 Catastrophe Report from insurance broker Aon Benfield. They also classified two new billion-dollar disasters from previous severe weather outbreaks in April and June in the U.S., bringing the global number of billion-dollar weather disasters for the first eight months of 2014 to seventeen. This is well behind the record-setting pace of 2013, which had 28 billion-dollar weather disasters by the end of August, and ended up with a record 41 by the end of the year.

Disaster 1. Flooding near Islip, New York, on August 13, 2014. Islip set an all-time New York state record for 24-hour precipitation with 13.57". Image credit: wunderphotographer Hurricane765.

An El Niño Watch continues
August 2014 featured neutral El Niño conditions in the equatorial Eastern Pacific, and sea surface temperatures were about 0.4°C above average in August in the so-called Niño 3.4 region (5°S - 5°N, 120°W - 170°W), where SSTs must be at least 0.5°C above average for five consecutive months for an El Niño event to be declared. NOAA is continuing its El Niño Watch, but in early August dropped their odds of a fall or winter El Niño from 80% to 60 - 65%.

Arctic sea ice falls to 7th lowest August extent on record
Arctic sea ice extent during August was the 7th lowest in the 36-year satellite record and was similar to August 2013 levels, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC). As of September 17, the end of this year’s Arctic sea ice melt season was imminent and the minimum extent will be slightly lower than last year’s, making it the sixth lowest extent in the satellite record. The Northern Sea Route (also known as the Northeast Passage)--the shipping lane along the north coast of Russia in Arctic waters--has been open for over a month, according to ice edge analyses by the National Snow and Ice Data Center and the University of Illinois Cryosphere Today. The Northwest Passage through the Arctic waters of Canada did not open, and will stay closed in 2014. Mariners have been attempting to sail these passages since 1497. The Northeast Passage opened to ice-free navigation for the first time in recorded history in 2005, with the Northwest Passage following suit during the summer of 2007. Both passages have been open multiple summers since then, as long-term melting of the ice has continued. However, this summer's weather in the Arctic has featured winds favorable for not letting sea ice drift out through Fram Strait, and we have seen the total volume of sea sea as estimated by the University of Washington PIOMAS model pull back from the record low set in 2012. Some of the 2nd-year ice that survived the summer of 2013 has also survived the summer of 2014, so the ice pack is armoring itself a bit going into 2015 with a modest amount of multi-year ice compared to what we went into 2012 with (2012 set the record for lowest Arctic sea ice extent.)

Most spectacular weather videos of August

Video 1. A Russian man pulls out of his garage just as a tornado arrives. He tries to go back in the garage, but it is destroyed before he can. Note: The dash cam date is incorrect; the tornado occurred on August 29, 2014 in Bashkiria, Russia. According to, the tornado was an EF-3 that killed two people and injured 80.

Video 2. This videographer got way too close to a landspout-type tornado which occurred under a non-supercell thunderstorm on August 31, 2014. The tornado had a diameter of about 100 feet, and the photographer was less than 50 feet from the storm. Seriously, take shelter, dude! According to Michael Thuesner of, the video was taken in Butjadingen, Germany, looking NW/N across a small artificial lake. Here is a second video taken from a safe distance.

Video 3. This videographer was also too close to an August 6, 2014 tornado i‪n San Cristóbal de Las Casas, Chiapas, México‬.

Win $100 in this month's wunderground "Climate Lottery"
Every three months, the Weather Channel's Guy Walton runs a "Climate Lottery" in his wunderground blog where players guess U.S. temperatures for the coming three months. This summer's winner earned a cool $100. The lottery for this fall is now open; to participate, simply go to Guy's blog and pick three numbers between 1 and 120 (with 1 representing the coldest possible ranking and 120 being the highest possible ranking) for September, October, and November 2014 U.S. temperatures, plus a tie-breaker “Power Ball” or overall ranking number for fall 2014. Post your prediction in the comments section of the blog. Picks must be made by midnight EDT October 5th. The National Climatic Data Center’s ranking numbers for fall 2014 will be posted on or shortly after December 15th, 2014.

Jeff Masters

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About The Author
Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.

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