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Extreme Weather of November 2011

Insights + Opinion

Stefanie Penn Spear

Stay tuned this week as I review the year's social, environmental and economic events that have impacted human health and the environment. I begin by reviewing the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) report, State of the Climate Global Analysis, that provides global weather data for November 2011.

According to NOAA, all around the globe there were warming trends throughout the month of November making it the 12th warmest November since record keeping began in 1880. China, Western Australia, Eastern Africa, Colombia and Italy experienced extreme, heavy rains. Australia experienced its wettest November since 1975 and second wettest November since records began in 1900. Colombia's heavy rain resulted in a deadly mudslide in the city of Manizales and about 250,000 people were affected by the rains and floods.

Also in November, Mexico experienced dry conditions, the worst in 70 years that affected nearly 70 percent of the country, and Germany was the driest since national records began in 1881. Norway experienced its warmest November since national records began in 1900, the Northeastern U.S. had above average temperatures in September and November after experiencing one of its wettest falls on record, and the United Kingdom had its second warmest November since 1994.

The most powerful storm since 1974 broke out in the Bering Sea and Hurricane Kenneth was the strongest late-season hurricane ever experienced in the Eastern North Pacific basin.

Arctic sea ice extent was the third smallest on record for November at 11.5 percent below average. Additionally, La Niña conditions continued throughout the month and are expected to continue through the winter.

The NOAA report detailed the following:

Global temperature highlights: November

  • The combined global land and ocean average surface temperature for November 2011 was the 12th warmest on record at 55.81 F (13.35 C), which is 0.81 F (0.45 C) above the 20th century average of 55.0 F (12.9 C). The margin of error associated with this temperature is +/- 0.13 F (0.07 C).
  • Separately, the global land surface temperature was 1.10 F (0.61 C) above the 20th century average of 42.6 F (5.9 C), making this the 16th warmest November on record and the coolest month since February 2011. The margin of error is +/- 0.20 F (0.11 C). Warmer-than-average conditions occurred across central and eastern North America, Northern and Western Europe, northern Russia, most of China and the Middle East, southeastern Australia, and southern South America. Cooler-than-average regions included Alaska, western Canada, much of Eastern Europe, Kazakhstan, and southwestern Russia.

  • The November global ocean surface temperature was 0.70 F (0.39 C) above the 20th century average of 60.4 F (15.8 C), making it the 12th warmest November on record. The margin of error is +/- 0.07 F (0.04 C). The warmth was most pronounced across the north central and northwest Pacific, the Labrador Sea, and portions of the mid-latitude Southern oceans.
  • November 2011 marks the 321st consecutive month with a global temperature above the 20th century average. The last month with below average temperatures was February 1985.

Global temperature highlights: September – November

  • The combined global land and ocean average surface temperature for the September - November period was 0.94 F (0.52 C) above the 20th century average of 57.1 F (14.0 C), making it the 12th warmest such period on record. The margin of error is +/- 0.16 F (0.09 C).
  • The September - November worldwide land surface temperature was 1.57 F (0.87 C) above the 20th century average, the seventh warmest such period on record. The margin of error is +/- 0.31 F (0.17 C). The global ocean surface temperature for the year to date was 0.70 F (0.39 C) above the 20th century average and was the 12th warmest such period on record. The margin of error is +/-0.07 F (0.04 C).

Global temperature highlights: Year to date

  • The combined global land and ocean average surface temperature for the January - November period was 0.94 F (0.52 C) above the 20th century average of 57.2 F (14.0 C), making it the 11th warmest such period on record. The margin of error is +/- 0.16 F (0.09 C).
  • The January - November worldwide land surface temperature was 1.51 F (0.84 C) above the 20th century average, the seventh warmest such period on record. The margin of error is +/- 0.36 F (0.20 C). The global ocean surface temperature for the year to date was 0.74 F (0.41 C) above the 20th century average and was the 11th warmest such period on record. The margin of error is +/-0.05 F (0.03 C).

Polar sea ice and precipitation highlights

  • The average Arctic sea ice extent during November was 11.5 percent below average, ranking as the third smallest November extent since satellite records began in 1979. The extent was 502,000 square miles (1.3 million square kilometers) below average. This marks the 18th consecutive November and 126th consecutive month with below-average Arctic sea ice extent.
  • On the opposite pole, the Antarctic sea ice extent during November was 0.5 percent below average, the 11th smallest on record. This is the first November since 2002 with below-average Antarctic ice extent.
  • Northern Hemisphere snow cover extent was much-above average during November with the 4th largest November snow cover extent in the 46-year period of record. Both the North American and Eurasian land areas had above-average snow cover extents.
  • Much of Europe experienced extreme dryness during November. Both Germany and Austria reported their driest Novembers on record. Much-wetter-than-normal conditions occurred across parts of South Asia and northeast Africa.

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National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) mission is to understand and predict changes in the Earth's environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and to conserve and manage our coastal and marine resources.

Scientists, researchers and leaders in government and industry use NOAA’s monthly reports to help track trends and other changes in the world's climate. This climate service has a wide range of practical uses, from helping farmers know what and when to plant, to guiding resource managers with critical decisions about water, energy and other vital assets.

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