July 2020 Temperature Update

The following is a summary of global temperature conditions in Berkeley Earth’s analysis of July 2020.

  • July 2020 is tied with July 2019 as the warmest July since records began in 1850.
  • As July is usually the warmest month globally, tying the July record also means that July 2020 is tied for the warmest month overall.
  • A transition towards La Niña conditions continue in the Pacific.
  • Accounting for the likely impact of La Niña, updated projections for the rest of 2020 give a 36% chance that 2020 will be a new record warm year.

Global Summary

Globally, July 2020 is estimated to have been tied with July 2019 as the warmest July since records began in 1850. The nominal difference between 2019 and 2020 is less than 0.01 °C, which is much smaller than the uncertainty on this temperature analysis, making 2019 and 2020 indistinguishable. Previously in 2020, we have also witnessed the warmest April, May, and June.

The global mean temperature in July 2020 was 0.83 ± 0.07 °C (1.49 ± 0.13 °F) above the 1951 to 1980 average.

This is equivalent to being 1.18 ± 0.09 °C (2.12 ± 0.16 °F) above the 1850 to 1900 average, which is frequently used as a benchmark for the preindustrial period.

The global mean temperature anomaly in July 2020 was nearly identical to June, increasing by only a tiny margin. The current values are close to the long-term trend line associated with recent global warming. We note that the July temperature anomalies are lower than they were in January through April, but still high compared to previous decades. Due to higher weather variability during the Northern winter months, it is not unusual for temperature anomalies in Northern summer months to be somewhat smaller than those in January to March.

When temperatures are expressed as their true averages, rather than anomalies, global mean temperature is usually the highest in the month of July. Global temperatures peak in July as a result of the larger seasonal shifts in the Northern Hemisphere compared to the Southern Hemisphere. By tying the record for warmest July, it also makes July 2020 tied for the warmest month ever observed.

Spatial Variation

July 2020 continues the ongoing pattern of wide-spread warmth. Particularly warm conditions were present in parts of Asia, North and South America, and much of Antarctica. Record setting warmth was also present in parts of the Arctic Ocean and North Pacific. The extreme warmth in Arctic Ocean was associated with sea ice declining to record lows in mid July, though these declines have since slowed.

Unusually cold conditions were rare in July. We estimate that 4.5% of the Earth’s surface experienced their locally warmest July average, and 75% of the Earth’s surface was significantly warmer when compared to their local average during the period 1951 to 1980. No regions had their locally coldest July.

The continuing development of a cool area in the Eastern Pacific, first observed last month, is indicative of a transition towards La Niña conditions.

Over land regions, 2020 was nominally the second warmest July, coming in as 1.19 ± 0.07 °C (2.14 ± 0.13 °F) above the 1951 to 1980 average. This value is slightly lower than value in July 2011; however, each July in 2011, 2018, 2019, and 2020 was similar and separated by less than the margin of uncertainty.

July 2020 was nominally the second warmest July in the oceans, recorded as 0.66 ± 0.07 °C (1.19 ± 0.11 °F) above the 1951 to 1980 average.  This is similar to the ocean temperatures observed in each July of 2019, 2016 and 2015, all of which are separated by less than the margin of uncertainty.

La Niña

July 2020 continues a transition towards La Niña conditions in the Pacific Ocean. This weather phenomenon is characterized by the emergence of relatively cool ocean water in the Eastern Central Pacific and would be expected to have a significant impact on global weather patterns over the next several months. The central Pacific remains in a transitional state, but a La Niña pattern is now considered to be favored in coming months.

La Niña conditions developing now would be expected to reduce global mean temperature towards the end of 2020 and in early 2021. Such conditions would also reduce the likelihood that 2020 becomes a record warm year.

Early August ENSO forecast from IRI/CPC showing increased likelihood of La Niña conditions during the latter half of 2020.

2020 January to July Summary

After 7 months, the Earth in 2020 has been marked by above average temperatures nearly everywhere, with especially extreme conditions across Asia. We estimate that the January to July average was record warm for 9.0% of the Earth, and appreciably above the 1951 to 1980 average for 86% of the Earth. Only, 1.2% of the Earth’s surface was significantly cooler than the 1951 to 1980 average during the current January to July period, and no locations were record cool.

In addition, the January to July averages for Asia, Europe, and South America all set record highs.

Looking at regions where January to July temperature averages were either the top 5 warmest or the top 5 coldest observed, we note extensive regions with record or near-record warmth during the first seven months and no regions of near-record cold.

Rest of 2020

Of the first seven months of 2020, April, May, and June each set a new record, July tied the record, and January to March were each no lower than the fourth warmest. Overall, the January to July average is essentially tied with 2016 as the warmest start to a year. In 2016 temperatures were boosted due to a massive El Niño event. It is remarkable that 2020 is approaching the same level of warmth despite the lack of El Niño conditions this year.

As suggested by the plot above, we would typically expect that the second half of the year to have slightly lower temperature anomalies than January to April, which is important in the context of estimating the likely range for final temperature anomalies in 2020.

With April, May, and June setting new records for monthly warmth, the projected warmth during the second half of the year remains quite high.

However, the emergence of a cool pattern over the Eastern Central Pacific and the increased likelihood of a La Niña event later this year suggests that temperatures at the end of 2020 may be cooler than otherwise expected. This reduces the likelihood of a record warm year.

The statistical approach that we use now believes that 2020 has an 36% likelihood of surpassing 2016 and becoming the warmest year that has been directly measured. This is a decline from the previous monthly forecast that placed the odds of a new record at 45%. We believe this decrease in likelihood is primarily related to the emerging La Niña.

Regardless of whether a new record is set, it remains highly likely that 2020 will be one of the warmest years since 1850.

Likelihood of final 2020 ranking, based on January to July:

  • 1st place (36%)
  • 2nd place (51%)
  • Top 3 overall (>99%)

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