Globally, 2014 Was Warmest on Record, but Not in Northeast

Michael Rawlins

AMHERST, Mass. – With data now in for all of the year just ended, several national weather agencies around the world including the U.S. National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and Japan’s Meteorological Agency are reporting that global average temperature for 2014 was the warmest on record.

But much of the eastern half of the United States was relatively cool, and seven Midwestern states had an annual temperature that ranked among their 10 coolest on record, says Michael Rawlins, assistant professor of geosciences and manager of the Climate System Research Center at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, who follows quarterly and annual trends.   

NOAA has announced that global temperature in 2014 was 1.24 degrees F above the 20th century average of 57 degrees F, making 2014 the warmest year across global land and ocean surfaces since records began in 1880, he reports.The Japanese agency announced the record earlier this month at 1.1 degrees F above the 20th century average. The two other major climate-tracking agencies, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the U.K.’s Hadley Center, are expected to confirm the record later this month. Each group uses different methods to generate global temperature estimates from available data, typically airport weather measurements and satellite observations.

But Rawlins says Massachusetts’ average temperature for 2014, 47.7 degrees F, was not the warmest on record. This ranks 87th warmest out of 120 years (rank 1=coldest, 120=warmest) in the record from 1895 to 2014. For most Northeast states, including Massachusetts and the northeast region as a whole, 2012 remains the warmest year on record. “Deviations such as a cold month or a cold year across some part of the world is a reflection of recent weather patterns. The century-long trend of warming global average temperature is a response to increasing atmospheric greenhouse gases resulting from human activities,” say Rawlins.  

He adds, “For global average temperature, the previous record warm year before 2012 was 1998, which ended with a very strong El Niño. The fact that last year surpassed 1998, despite the absence of an El Niño, is important to note. Should an El Niño emerge this winter, 2015 may end up even warmer.”

Among the first-order weather stations in the western New England region, that is airport sites with certified weather observers, Hartford’s 50.1 degrees F is near the average of 50.2 degrees, ranking tied for 57th (1=coldest, 111=warmest) for the period of record 1904–2014. Worcester averaged a cool 46.9 degrees F, which ranks tied for 29th  from 1892 to 2014. Boston averaged 51.1 degrees F, which ranks tied for 87th out of 143 years of record from 1872 to 2014.

In eastern New England, temperatures in Maine averaged 41.3 F, ranking 97th, with only 27 years having a warmer annual temperature over the 120-year period. The departure from the climate normal period from 1981 to 2010 average of 41.4 degrees F was -0.1 degrees, illustrating how normals have increased slightly over the decades. “What’s considered below normal now might have been normal or above normal during earlier decades,” says Rawlins.

Precipitation was slightly wetter than average across much of the region. Massachusetts received 49.78 inches of precipitation in 2014, which is 102 percent of the normal (1981–2010) precipitation.

Rawlins notes that weather station records are considered preliminary until undergoing quality control by the National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C.