We are inundated by statistics all day long. It can be difficult to assess what they really mean. For example, does the fact that 2018 was only the 4th hottest year on record mean global warming is slowing? Not hardly, in fact, quite the opposite: Please read on.

NOAA, NASA, the European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service and Berkeley Earth have all confirmed that 2018 was the 4th hottest in terms of global surface air temperatures. Average Mean Annual Land Surface Air Temperatures were 14.7° Celsius (58.4°F in 2018, just 0.2C (.3°F) off the record year 2016.

According to Berkeley Earth, in 2018 about 4.3% of the planet set new local records for the warmest annual average, including significant areas in Europe and the Middle East.

The five warmest years have been 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018 (not in that order). The ten hottest years have occurred since 1998. While there are variations in the details, other agencies from around the planet report remarkably consistent overall results.

2018 was a La Niña year, a natural oceanic temperature cycle that alternates with El Niño. La Niña years are virtually always cooler than El Niño years. The fact that 2018 made it into the top five is all the more alarming for that reason. BTW, an El Niño appears to be forming, although prediction is not 100% accurate.

The next statistic is more troubling:

2018 was the warmest year on record for global ocean temperatures. 

Polar Ice Primer

Over past two decades, the ocean has been warming about 40% faster than previously understood. To a large degree, that is because the oceans have been acting as a buffer, storing the heat trapped by greenhouse gases and temporarily delaying the onslaught of global warming. As the planet has warmed, the oceans have provided a sort of climate change cushion.

For the past 20 years, the waters of the Earth have been absorbing and storing massive amounts of heat energy as polar sea ice disappears. See the page on polar ice classifications. (Incidentally, the oceans have also been sucking CO2 out of the atmosphere as well.)

Unlike the atmosphere, ocean temperatures fluctuates over decades. When the ocean stores heat, it is slowly released back into the atmosphere, another feedback that may well be irreversible.

Global atmospheric temperatures will continue to set records over the next five years, according to the British Weather Service (MET).

Antarctic sea ice extent is at a record low and in the Arctic, temperatures are climbing about twice as fast as the rest of the globe. Global wind patterns are being disrupted, causing extreme weather events around the planet. This is the origin of the polar vortex, but that is only one manifestation.

The ecosystems of both polar regions are changing so profoundly and so fast that scientists are hard pressed to keep up. And of course, the permafrost is not so perma any more. That is a separate topic.

The final statistic: Atmospheric CO₂ crossed the 414 PPM for the first time at the Mona Loa, HI recording station for the first time last month. Pledges and world conferences aside, the growth of CO₂ in the atmosphere is accelerating, not decreasing. Prior to the industrial revolution, the average CO₂ measurement would have been 280 PPM. The Earth broke the 400 PPM measurement in 2016. Continued CO₂ growth is forecast for 2019 as emissions continue to rise and ecosystems absorb CO₂. If the predicted El Niño takes hold, the results will be magnified.

The greenhouse effect of CO₂ peak about ten years after it is emitted. Carbon dioxide levels today are higher than at any point in at least the past 800,000 years.

The chart curves up logarithmically and yes, this looks just like Al Gore’s hockey stick chart. (Actually it’s Michael Mann’s hockey stick and the original was for temperature, but they are most definitely related). But whether you like Al Gore or not has nothing to do with whether or not he has his facts straight.

Albert Einstein could also be a bit of an jerk, they say, and yet, you know: pretty smart guy.

The Disappearing Ogallala Aquifer

The Ogallala Aquifer Crisis Is Uniquely American, With Global Consequences

The Ogallala Aquifer is a huge table of groundwater that covers portions of eight Western States. The system contains as much water as Lake Huron and is one of the planet’s largest sources of fresh water. Unlike “actual” lakes, the water lies just beneath the surface, visible in a few locations as wetlands or ponds. Most people have never heard of the Ogallala (also known as the High Plains Aquifer) to some degree because it is rarely visible as surface water..

Yet the Ogallala is the water supply that keeps a large component of western American industrial agriculture in business, the heartland’s wheat fields, also the source of corn, sorghum, soybeans, wheat and cotton. This is where the irrigation circles (otherwise known as pivot irrigation) get their water. About $25 billion of annual agricultural output depends on this vast reservoir.

But the Ogallala is on the verge getting tapped out.

What farmers thought was inexhaustible 25 years ago has been depleted many times faster than it can be replenished. If it runs dry, it will take about 6,000 years to fill back up. Whe

As one scientist put it: there are too many straws in the resource. Wells are now 300+ feet deep and the aquifer simply can’t replenish itself as fast as the crops drink it up. Not even close.

At this point in time, water is being pumped that has been deep underground for hundreds of thousands of years.  Water levels in Kansas have dropped up to 14ft since 1996, about a foot a year. BUT in 2011, level drop rates more than doubled, to 2.2 ft. per year. In some places in southern Kansas, water level has declined 150 feet and wells have been abandoned.

In some parts of the region, it takes one year to recharge the aquifer 1 inch through natural percolation.

Do the math.

There is more bad news: the region – already rated as semi-arid – has been in the throes of severe drought since 2011. The condition has vacillates from severe to extreme to exceptional drought, the two worst categories.

Climate scientists expect this state of affairs to persist and worsen. This is a long term event that will increase demand on the aquifer while reducing the ability of the aquifer to recharge.

Unless major changes are made.

Western states are generally Red states, led by hands off Republicans inclined to let the farmers handle it themselves. It’s not that they don’t know there is a crisis looming, it’s that they lack the political courage to do anything about it. Some farmers and institutions are taking steps, but the future is unclear. Humans sometimes do amazing things when threatened. Some of the amazing things are good. Sometimes they are the opposite of good, like electing strong men they think will save them.

Sometimes they wait until it’s too late.

Since we seem to get stuck on economic arguments, consider the economic price of losing the Ogallala: a slow moving economic and cultural catastrophe that will change the face of America.

Kind of like global warming.

Alarmed Yet?

The hottest four years on record for atmospheric temps are 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018. However: 2018 was the hottest year on record for LaNina years!

2018 was the hottest year on record for global ocean temperatures. The hottest four years on record for global ocean temperatures are 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018.


Driving the exponential rate increase in global warming is the continued increases in CO2 emissions, including the US. Worse is expected this year.

This is actually less alarming than the amount of CO2 being absorbed by the ocean. And then there is the methane feedback loop: as the permafrost thaws, the CH4 that had been trapped is no longer trapped. This process is just beginning, but is accelerating.


There are trillions of tons of freshwater ice sitting on top of Greenland…for now.

Warming waters in fjords are melting coastal glaciers now, even in the middle of winter. Greenland’s ice sheet is second only to Antarctica and contributes about 20% to sea level rise.  This is fresh water being dumped in the ocean, which changes salinity, which screws up a lot of other things.

The feedback loops: Visit our primer on how global warming both drives and is driven by the various types of ice. Link.

The Ice Goeth, Man.

Flashing captions = Current emergencies

Antarctic land ice is melting 6X faster than 1980's rate:
Jan 13 - Two alarming new research reports (University of California) tell us that the rate of Antarctic land ice melt has increased 280% over the past four decade. The current rate - which is accelerating - is enough to add one millimeter a year in sea level rise. New estimates indicate an end-of-century rise over near 200 ft. Ice has increased from 40 gigatons / year from 1979-90 to 252 gigatons per year from 2009-17. Six times faster.
Ocean waters have warmed about 40% faster than previously understood
Jan 10 - The global ocean has been absorbing massive amounts of heat over the past 20 years. The ability of the ocean to absorb excess heat has moderated the atmospheric increase to some degree, but once heat is absorbed it remains in the oceans much much longer. The significant increase in extreme weather, landslides, hurricanes and storms is attributable to the warming seas.

Other current data:

  1. 2018 has been confirmed as the 4th warmest year on record. The four hottest are 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018.  The is all the more ominous due to the fact that 2018 was a La Nina year, which are typically cooler than 2016 years.
  2. Jan 10: Ocean waters have warmed to an unprecedented degree, far more quickly than projected, and at an alarming and accelerating rate. Some consequences.
  3. US carbon emissions rose again in 2018 after leveling off in previous years.
  4. 2018 record year for global heat records
  5. Antarctic sea ice pack extent at all time record low for early Jan.
  6. Recurring Solomon Island Flooding
  7. Wildfire apocalypse Tasmania
  8. Ongoing jellyfish incursion brought about by pollution and warming
  9. Glaciers going dark with soot, reduced ability to sunlight back into space + absorb more heat energy. This is one of two major feedback loops that accelerate global warming.
  10. The once stable land glaciers in East Antarctica are melting. The Totten Glacier alone contains ten feet of sea level rise.
  11. The Manhattan-sized cavity inside the Thwaits Glacier and what it means for Antarctica and the planet. More.
  12. Marine species collapse (Report)