Summary Information

The State of the Climate Summary Information is a synopsis of the collection of national and global summaries released each month.


Global Summary Information - December 2016

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2016 is Earth's warmest year, culminating in a remarkable 3-year streak of record warm years for the globe


The globally averaged temperature over land and ocean surfaces for 2016 was the highest among all years since record keeping began in 1880. During the final month, the December combined global land and ocean average surface temperature was the third highest for December in the 137-year record.



Global highlights: Calendar Year 2016

For extended analysis of global climate patterns, please see our full Annual report

  • During 2016, the average temperature across global land and ocean surfaces was 1.69°F (0.94°C) above the 20th century average. This was the highest among all 137 years in the 1880–2016 record, surpassing the previous record set last year by 0.07°F (0.04°C). The first eight months of the year had record high temperatures for their respective months. Since the start of the 21st century, the annual global temperature record has been broken five times (2005, 2010, 2014, 2015, and 2016). The record warmth in 2016 was broadly spread around the world.
  • During 2016, the globally-averaged land surface temperature was 2.57°F (1.43°C) above the 20th century average. This was the highest among all years in the 1880–2016 record, surpassing the previous record of 2015 by 0.18°F (0.10°C).
    • Record high temperatures over land surfaces were measured across Far East Russia, Alaska, far western Canada, a swath of the eastern United States, much of Central America and northern South America, southern Chile, much of eastern and western Africa, north central Siberia, parts of south Asia, much of southeast Asia island nations and Papua New Guinea, and parts of Australia, especially along the northern and eastern coasts. No land areas were cooler than average for the year.
  • During 2016, the globally-averaged sea surface temperature was 1.35°F (0.75°C) above the 20th century average. This was the highest among all years in the 1880–2016 record, surpassing the previous record of last year by 0.02°F (0.01°C).
    • Record high sea surface temperatures were observed across the northern Pacific waters near Alaska, the Bering Sea, parts of the southern and western Pacific, a long swath of the western Atlantic stretching to the Gulf of Mexico, parts of the southern and eastern Indian Ocean extending across the waters of southeastern Asia island nations and Oceania. The only ocean area with record cold temperatures was east of the Drake Passage near the Antarctic Peninsula, an area that has been much cooler than average since late 2013.
  • According to data from NOAA analyzed by the Rutgers Global Snow Lab, the average annual Northern Hemisphere snow cover extent during 2016 was 9.5 million square miles. This was about 100,000 square miles less than the 1981–2010 average, and tied 2005 for 12th smallest of the 47 complete years on record since 1968.
  • Recent trends in the decline of Arctic polar sea ice extent continued in 2016. When averaging daily data from the National Snow and Ice Data Center, and noting that there was an unanticipated sensor transition during the year, the estimated average annual sea ice extent in the Arctic was approximately 3.92 million square miles, the smallest annual average in the record.
  • The annual Antarctic sea ice extent was the second smallest on record, behind 1986, at 4.31 million square miles. Both the November and December 2016 extents were record small.

Global highlights: December 2016

  • During December, the average temperature across global land and ocean surfaces was 1.42°F (0.79°C) above the 20th century average. This was the third highest for December in the 1880–2016 record. Only the Decembers of 2014 and 2015 were warmer.
  • During December, the globally-averaged land surface temperature was 2.30°F (1.28°C) above the 20th century average. This was the sixth highest for December in the 1880–2016 record.
  • During December, the globally-averaged sea surface temperature was 1.10°F (0.61°C) above the 20th century average. This was also the highest for December in the 1880–2016 record. Only the Decembers of 2009, 2014, and 2015 were warmer.
  • The average Arctic sea ice extent for December was 4.67 million square miles, according to analysis by the National Snow and Ice Data Center based on data from NOAA and NASA. This value is 400,000 square miles (7.9 percent) below the 1981–2010 average, and the second smallest December extent since records began in 1979.
  • Antarctic sea ice during December was 3.41 million square miles, according to analysis by the National Snow and Ice Data Center based on data from NOAA and NASA. This value is 970,000 square miles (22.2 percent) below the 1981–2010 average, and the smallest December extent on record.
  • According to data from NOAA analyzed by the Rutgers Global Snow Lab, the Northern Hemisphere snow cover extent during December was 17.5 million square miles, which is 550,000 square miles above the 1981–2010 average. This was the eighth largest December Northern Hemisphere snow cover extent in the 50-year period of record.

For extended analysis of global temperature and precipitation patterns, please see our full December report