Climate Change 2013: Last Year Was 4th Warmest Year In Recorded History And 37th Consecutive Year Of Above-Average Global Temperatures

By Gabrielle Jonas on January 16, 2014 9:01 AM EST

2013 Statewide Temperatures
The average temperature for the contiguous United States during 2013 was 52.4°Fahrenheit, 0.3°F above the 20th century average, tying with 1980 as the 37th warmest year in the 119-year period of record. (Photo: NOAA)

Last year, 2013, was the 37th consecutive year of above-average global temperatures, the National Climatic Data Center has reported. Combined land and ocean temperatures for the earth in 2013 averaged 0.62° Centigrade (1.11° Fahrenheit) above the long-term mean, making 2013 the fourth-warmest year recorded since meteorologists first started keep records of global temperatures in 1880.

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The average temperature for the contiguous United States during 2013 was 52.4°Fahrenheit, 0.3°Fahrenheit above the 20th century average, tying with 1980 as the 37th warmest year in the 119-year period of record, NOAA scientists said in a press release. The year consisted of a warmer-than-average winter, summer, and autumn, and a cooler-than-average spring. The year 2010 remains the warmest on record, when the combined land and ocean global temperature was nearly 0.66° Centigrade (1.19° Fahrenheit) above the 20th century average. The last below-average year was 1976, when global temperatures registered 0.08° Centigrade (0.14° Fahrenheit) under the long-term average.

Last year was also wet one for the United States, with the average precipitation for the contiguous states being 31.17 inches, 2.03 inches above the 20th century average. This marked the 21st wettest year on record and the wettest since 2009. California was record dry, while Michigan and North Dakota were record wet; Alaska had its third wettest year.

In 2013, the United States suffered seven weather and "climate disaster" events, each with losses exceeding $1 billion in damages. These events included five severe weather and tornado events, a major flood event, and the western drought/heat wave. "Overall, these events killed 109 people and delivered significant economic effects," the NOAA reported.

The year 2013 marked the first time since 1993 that at no point during a year were there lingering phases of the warming and cooling phases of El Niño or La Niña, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) Climate Prediction Center reported. The so-called current "ENSO neutral phase" has been present since April 2012. The El Niño/Southern Oscillation (ENSO) is a warming or cooling cycle of the waters across the central and eastern Pacific, leading to a drastic change in the orientation of upper atmospheric storm tracks. 

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