2. Climate and global change issues

a. Surface temperatures

Estimated global (land area only) mean temperature anomalies during 1995 [computed using meteorological station data received over the Global Telecommunications System (GTS) relative to the 1951-80 base period means] were the second largest in the historical record (0.42°C), ranking behind the warmest year of 1990 (0.52°C), and slightly ahead of 1991 (0.41°C) and 1994 (0.41°C) (Fig. 1). This marks a continuation of the warmer-than-normal global-land temperatures that have been observed for the past 10 years. In addition, the four warmest years since 1951 have occurred during the decade of the 1990s. Much of the warmth during 1995 was concentrated in the Northern Hemisphere (Fig. 1b ), as the mean annual Southern Hemisphere temperature was only the eleventh warmest since 1951 (Fig. 1c ).

Record warmth over land occurred during the December 1994-February 1995 (DJF) and June-August 1995 (JJA) seasons (Figs. 2a, c). The 1994/95 DJF temperature was slightly more than +0.80°C above normal and was larger than any seasonal departure observed since 1951. The estimated global-land temperatures during the March-May (MAM) and September-November (SON) seasons were also above normal during 1995 (Figs. 2b, d ), but not at the record extremes observed during the winter and summer. This observation contrasts with the past decade, in which much of the anomalous warmth occurred during the first half of the year. For example during the last 10 years, the global DJF and MAM land temperatures averaged more than 0.40°C above normal, while the JJA and SON temperatures averaged near 0.25°C and 0.15°C above normal, respectively.

The estimated global mean surface temperature for land and marine areas combined is derived from observations at land stations and from sea surface temperatures (SSTs) measured by ships and buoys. The global temperature for 1995 was 0.40°C above the 1961-90 average (Fig. 3). This anomaly exceeds the previous warmest year in the record (1990) by 0.04°C. The Northern Hemisphere also experienced record warmth during 1995 with temperatures averaging 0.55°C above normal, while Southern Hemisphere temperatures (0.23°C above normal) were not as warm as 1983 or 1987 and were about equal to 1990, 1991, and 1993.

A major contributor to the anomalous warmth during 1995 was well-above-normal temperatures over northern Eurasia (Fig. 4). Temperatures averaged more than 3.0°C above normal over Siberia during the year, with monthly anomalies during January and February exceeding +10.0°C across parts of this region (see Section 4b). A time series averaged over the countries which formerly comprised the Soviet Union (Fig. 5) shows 1995 to be the warmest year since 1891 for that region (+2.1°C above normal), far surpassing the previous record anomaly of +1.4°C set in 1990.

Elsewhere, annual mean surface land temperatures were also significantly above normal across Alaska, northwestern Canada, and Europe (which experienced a very warm summer, see Section 4b). Colder-than-normal annual mean land temperatures during the year were restricted to southern Australia and Greenland (Fig. 4).

The dissipation of warm episode (El Niño_Southern Oscillation) conditions in early 1995 and the development of weak cold-episode conditions by the end of the year (see Section 3) is evident in the pattern of below-normal SSTs in the eastern equatorial Pacific (Fig. 4). However, most of the remainder of the tropical and subtropical oceans recorded above-normal temperatures for the year as a whole, with anomalies greater than 1.0°C covering parts of the Atlantic Ocean (Fig. 4 ). In contrast, temperatures averaged cooler than normal during 1995 throughout the North Pacific and the northern North Atlantic. Large parts of the Southern Hemisphere oceans south of 40°S also averaged colder than normal during 1995, especially south of New Zealand.

Regional time series for the contiguous United States (Fig. 6) and Australia (Fig. 7) show that 1995 temperatures were also above normal in these countries (0.3°C and 0.08°C above normal, respectively). Overall, 1995 was the 20th warmest year in the United States since 1895 and the 23rd warmest year in Australia since 1910. In the United States, December 1994-February 1995 (DJF) was especially warm, ranking as the 5th warmest since 1895. During this season, one-third of the country was much warmer than normal (upper tenth percentile), while none of the country was much colder than normal.