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2014 Was Earth's Hottest Year On Record: Warm In Northwest Too

NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center

Last year was the hottest year on record, according to data released Friday by NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

“For the 21st century, nine out of 10 years have been warmest on record — 1998 was the only year prior to the 21st century that made the top 10,” said Thomas Karl, director of NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center.

Ocean temperatures were higher than land temperatures, which raised the overall global average.

After a warm summer and winter, 2014 was the second hottest on record for Oregon and the fifth hottest on record for Washington. In Oregon, temperatures were 3 degrees Fahrenheit above the 20th century average. In Washington, temperatures were 2.3 degrees Fahrenheit above the 20th century average. The hottest year for both states is still 1934, when the Dust Bowl plagued the West.

Karin Bumbaco, the assistant state climatologist at the Office of the Washington State Climatologist, said one year’s spike in temperatures can’t be attributed to climate change. But, she said, global climate models do show the warming trend will continue. “So it is an indication of what’s might be coming in the future,” Bumbaco said.

Climatologists were surprised by one part of the data — 2014 was not an El Niño year. Those ocean conditions usually lead to record-breaking temperatures. That means this record was set without El Niño’s help.

“The thinking is that if we’re this warm without an El Niño, then with the increase in greenhouse gases, when we do have the next El Niño, how warm are we going to be? Is this the new baseline, in a sense?” Bumbaco said.

Philip Mote, director of the Oregon Climate Change Research Institute, said rising greenhouse gases are partly responsible for the warming that’s occurred in the Northwest. “In a lot of ways, 2014 looked like what we expect the average to be in a couple more decades — somewhat drier climate, less snow, hotter, drier summer, spring coming earlier,” Mote said. “A mix of good and bad, but kind of a different world from what experienced in the 20th Century.”