While there are still two weeks left in the year, most of the weather data is already in the books for 2015. What's clear is that it was a very warm year -- not just here in the upper Midwest, but across the entire globe -- and that warmth will likely set some records.
According to NASA, the period from January to November 2015 was the warmest such period on earth in the last 136 years. That's remarkable, yet not surprising; 6 of the top 10 warmest years worldwide on record have occurred since 2005.
Broken down by land area, you can see that there were some very cold (and record-cold) pockets across the globe -- including in the north-central Atlantic, in high southern latitudes, and across some of Sibera. Some of the warmest areas were found over North America, with record warmth over the equatorial Atlantic and Pacific.
Even a pattern with intensely cold pockets is consistent with what's possible in a warming climate in any given year. Climate change occurs on the order of decades or hundreds of years, and averaged over the entire globe.
By the numbers, for the January to November 2015 period:
- Global temperatures (record warm): +1.57°F above average
- Land temperature (record warm): +2.29°F above average
- Ocean temperature (record warm): +1.30°F above average
According to NASA, December 2015 would have to be 0.43° colder than the coldest December on record (in 1916) for 2015 to not be the warmest year on record. That's highly unlikely, given the strong El Nino pattern that's ongoing in the Atlantic Ocean.
El Nino has been directly responsible for the incredibly warm late fall we've been experiencing here in the upper Midwest. Snowfall is well below average, some of Minnesota's lakes are approaching their latest ice-in dates on record, and temperatures have regularly been 10-25° above average. November saw the latest sub-30° temperature on record, and the fourth warmest November on record in the Twin Cities, at 7.6° above average. Statewide in Minnesota, monthly temperatures were 6.9° above average, making it the third warmest across the state.
Climate science indicates that we can expect more winters like this one; as the global climate continues to change, the most marked warming in Minnesota will occur during the fall and winter months. The interactive chart below shows how climate is expected to change nationwide.