Observing temperature patterns in the lower stratosphere gives scientists clues about our planet’s changing climate. Global average temperatures in the lower stratosphere for 2013 were slightly below the 1981–2010 average.  

The globally averaged sea surface temperature in 2013 was among the 10 highest on record, with the North Pacific reaching an historic high temperature. ENSO-neutral conditions and a negative Pacific Decadal Oscillation pattern had the largest impacts on global sea surface temperature in 2013.

Upper ocean heat content has increased significantly over the past two decades. An estimated 70 percent of the excess heat has accumulated in the top 2,000 feet of the ocean, and the rest has flowed into deeper ocean layers.

In 2013, global average sea level was 1.5 inches above the 1993-2010 average, which is the highest yearly average in the satellite record (1993-present). Overall, sea level continues to rise at a rate of one-eighth of an inch per year.

The most likely explanation for the lack of significant warming at the Earth’s surface in the past decade or so is that natural climate cycles caused shifts in ocean circulation patterns that moved some excess heat into the deep ocean.

Global average sea level in 2012 was 1.4 inches above the 1993-2010 average, which was the highest yearly average in the satellite record. Sea level has been rising over the past century, and the pace has increased in recent decades.

El Niño and La Niña conditions occur when abnormally warm or cool waters accumulate in tropical latitudes of the central and eastern Pacific Ocean. The Oceanic Nino Index is the tool NOAA scienitsts use to watch for these temperature changes. 

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