John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
All it would take is for the remaining months to have average temperatures.
For powerful evidence that we've entered the Anthropocene—the term scientists are now using to describe the "age of humans" and the human-warped climate—look no further than the thermometer. Global temperatures were exceedingly balmy these past several months, and if the trend persists 2014 could go down as the warmest year in known history.
Back in June, scientists speculated about this very thing happening partly due to the toasty effects of El Niño. The terrible "little boy" hasn't even arrived yet, and much of the planet still feels like the inside of an armpit in a New Mexico summer. This past month was the warmest September since records began in 1880, one of an incredible four all time-hottest months that've boiled up this sweaty year. The oppressive heat licking the globe is nicely pictured in this NOAA graphic, which shows high-temperature aberrations of as much as nine degrees in dark red:
It's a good bet that the heat will remain throughout the winter, writes NOAA:
Scientists can’t know for certain how the final months of 2014 will play out in terms of temperature patterns, but there are good reasons to suspect this year may well set a new record for warmth. The January-September period has already tied for the warmest on record: Four out of the nine months so far this year were record warm, one was second warmest, another was third warmest, and two more were fourth warmest.
In addition, the persistent record warmth in the global ocean portends a continued very warm finish to the year. The ocean temperature rises and falls more slowly than the land temperature, and this tendency for persistence strengthens the chances of the year’s final three months resembling the first nine.
The folks at the National Climatic Data Center have crunched the numbers, and they say all it will take for 2014 to snag the "hottest year" title will be for October, November, and December to be "at least as warm as their 21st-century average."