March Global Temperature Change*
Rankings: March 1880 - March 2017
Comparisons with 20th Century Global Average Surface Temperature
(Temperatures are not compared with a pre-industrial baseline)
2nd Warmest March
May 7, 2017
The combined global average temperature over the land and ocean surfaces for March 2017 was 1.05°C (1.89°F) above the 20th century average of 12.7°C (54.9°F). This was the second highest for March since global temperature records began in 1880, behind the record year 2016 by 0.18°C (0.32°F) and ahead of 2015 by +0.15°C (+0.27°F). March 2017 marks the first time since April 2016 that the global land and ocean temperature departure from average was greater than 1.0°C (1.8°F) and the first time the monthly temperature departure from average surpasses 1.0°C (1.8°F) in the absence of an El Niño episode in the tropical Pacific Ocean. Overall, March 2017 tied with January 2016 as the fifth highest monthly global land and ocean temperature departure from average on record (1,647 monthly records). The record monthly temperature departure of 1.23°C (2.21°F) was set in March 2016. [NOAA global analysis accessed May 7, 2017].
"The science is sobering—the global temperature in 2012 was among the hottest since records began in 1880. Make no mistake: without concerted action, the very future of our planet is in peril."
NOAA's global analysis: "2016 became the warmest year in NOAA's 137-year series. Remarkably, this is the third consecutive year a new global annual temperature record has been set. The average global temperature across land and ocean surface areas for 2016 was 0.94°C (1.69°F) above the 20th century average of 13.9°C (57.0°F), surpassing the previous record warmth of 2015 by 0.04°C (0.07°F). The global temperatures in 2016 were majorly influenced by strong El Niño conditions that prevailed at the beginning of the year.
This marks the fifth time in the 21st century a new record high annual temperature has been set (along with 2005, 2010, 2014, and 2015) and also marks the 40th consecutive year (since 1977) that the annual temperature has been above the 20th century average. To date, all 16 years of the 21st century rank among the seventeen warmest on record (1998 is currently the eighth warmest.) The five warmest years have all occurred since 2010.
Overall, the global annual temperature has increased at an average rate of 0.07°C (0.13°F) per decade since 1880 and at an average rate of 0.17°C (0.31°F) per decade since 1970." [NOAA global analysis for 2016 accessed March 6, 2017].
"Globally-averaged temperatures in 2015 shattered the previous mark set in 2014 by 0.23 degrees Fahrenheit (0.13 Celsius). Only once before, in 1998, has the new record been greater than the old record by this much."
~ NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies [NASA post of January 20, 2016]
Before the end of 2015, scientists projected that average global temperature increase for 2015 will exceed 1°C above pre-industrial levels. The years 1850-1990 are used as the pre-industrial baseline by the MET Office and Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia in the UK. The MET Office released this statement in November 2015:
"This year marks an important first but that doesn't necessarily mean every year from now on will be a degree or more above pre-industrial levels, as natural variability will still play a role in determining the temperature in any given year. As the world continues to warm in the coming decades, however, we will see more and more years passing the 1 degree marker - eventually it will become the norm."
~ Peter Stott
Head of Climate Monitoring and Attribution (MET Office)
MET Office '15 Global temperatures to reach 1°C for first time
MET Office 2015 global temperature forecast
NSIDC '15 Record warmth in Antarctica
CO2.Earth Projections for Year 2100
CO2.EarthTemperature guardrail targets
Climate Central Rising global temperatures and CO2
Columbia U Global Temperature
The Royal Society Four degrees and beyond
Year-to-Date Global Temperature
NOAA compares 2015 monthly anomolies (compared to 20th Century average temperature) with 2014, 2010, 2013, 2005, 2009 and 1998. In rank order, these are the six warmest years since 1880.
Decadal Temperature Changes
Average Global Temperature (1850 - 2009)
Global Temperature Data Sets
Global Temperature Data
Prominent Global Surface Temperature Data Sets
(montlhy & annual)
1880-Present (csv, xml, json)
(monthly & annual)
Ten Global Temperature Records That Tell The Same Story
About Anomolies & Absolute Temperatures
NOAA-NCEI Absolute temperatures versus anomolies [FAQ 1, 2, 7 & 8]
SkS Anomolies, baselines, 2°C limit [Honeycutt | The 1°C milestone]
NOAA-NCEI Monthly global land & ocean surface mean temperature anomolies: 1901-2000 [.dat]
NOAA-NCEI Annual global land & ocean surface mean temperature anomolies: 1901-2000 [.dat]
W/M2 (Earth's Energy Imbalance)
"The inferred planetary energy imbalance, 0.58±0.15 W/m2 during the 6-yr period 2005-2010, confirms the dominant role of the human-made greenhouse effect in driving global climate change."
~ Hansen et al. (2011)
Measurements of changes in average global temperature at the earth's surface tell just part of the global warming story. A measure of earth's energy imbalance gives us a more holistic indicator that includes, for example, heat absorbed by the ocean. Energy imbalances are measured in watts per square meter (W/m2), not degrees Celsius.
At present, almost 4,000 Argo floats measure temperature and salinity of the top 2 kilometres of the world's oceans. This allows the best assessment so far for earth's energy imbalance. Hansen et al. (2011) discuss the need for further improvements in observations, measurements and research to achieve more precise energy balance data.
The remaining text on this page is copied from a 2012 NASA GISS science briefing on Earth's Energy Imbalance.
Earth's energy imbalance is the difference between the amount of solar energy absorbed by Earth and the amount of energy the planet radiates to space as heat. If the imbalance is positive, more energy coming in than going out, we can expect Earth to become warmer in the future — but cooler if the imbalance is negative. Earth's energy imbalance is thus the single most crucial measure of the status of Earth's climate and it defines expectations for future climate change.
Climate forcings are imposed perturbations to Earth's energy balance. Natural forcings include change of the Sun's brightness and volcanic eruptions that deposit aerosols in the stratosphere, thus cooling Earth by reflecting sunlight back to space. Principal human-made climate forcings are greenhouse gases (mainly CO2), which cause warming by trapping Earth's heat radiation, and human-made aerosols, which, like volcanic aerosols, reflect sunlight and have a cooling effect.
NASA GISS '12 Science briefs: Earth's energy imbalance
Scripps UCSD Argo
Hansen, J., Sato, M., Kharecha, P., & von Schuckmann, K. (2011). Earth's energy imbalance and implications. Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, 11(24), 13421-13449. doi:10.5194/acp-11-13421-2011 [AC&P + .pdf]
Ocean Heat Content
Global warming means the earth is retaining excess heat. About 93% of the total excess is found in the ocean. Over the past 50 years, the upper ocean (0 to 700 metres) accounted for about 64% of the total.
"The large inertia of the oceans means that they naturally integrate over short-term variability and often provide a clearer signal of longer-term change than other components of the climate system."
~ IPCC (Rhein et al., 2013, p. 260)
Where's the heat?
IPCC '13 Observations: Ocean (AR5, WG1, CH3) [43MB]
Rhein, M., Rintoul, S. R., Aoki, S., Campos, E., Chambers, D., Feely, R. A., . . . Wang, F. (2013). Observations: Ocean. In T. F. Stocker, D. Qin, G.-K. Plattner, M. Tignor, S. K. Allen, J. Boschung, A. Nauels, Y. Xia, B. V., & P. M. Midgley (Eds.), Climate change 2013: The physical science basis. Contribution of working group I to the fifth assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (pp. 255-315). Cambridge, UK and New York, USA: Cambridge University Press.