November 2021 was Earth’s fourth-warmest November since global record-keeping began in 1880, 0.91 degree Celsius (1.64°F) above the 20th-century average, NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information, NCEI, reported December 13. NASA also reported November 2021 as the fourth-warmest November on record, 1.18 degrees Celsius (2.12°F) above the 1880-1920 period, which is its best estimate for when preindustrial temperatures occurred. November 2021 was the third warmest November on record according to the Japan Meteorological Agency. Minor differences in rankings between the agencies can result from the different ways they treat data-sparse regions such as the Arctic.

November 2021 land areas had their third warmest November on record, while global ocean temperatures were the fourth warmest on record, according to NOAA. Africa had its warmest November on record; South America and Asia had a top-10 warmest November; North America and Europe had a top-15 warmest November. The contiguous U.S. experienced its seventh-warmest November on record, while Alaska had its eighth-coldest November.

Satellite-measured November temperatures of the lower atmosphere were the 10th-warmest in the 43-year-long record, according to the University of Alabama, Huntsville.

Figure 1. Departure of temperature from average for November 2021, the fourth warmest November for the globe since record keeping began in 1880. Record-warm November temperatures were present across parts of North America, South America, Africa, Oceana, and Asia, as well as across parts of the Atlantic, Pacific, and South Indian oceans. (Image credit: NOAA/NCEI)

January-November ranked as Earth’s sixth warmest such period on record. According to NCEI’s annual temperature outlook, the year 2021 is virtually certain to rank among the 10 warmest years on record, and more than 99% likely to be the sixth-warmest on record.

Two billion-dollar weather disasters in November; 41 so far in 2021

Earth had two billion-dollar weather disasters in November 2021, according to Aon: flooding in British Columbia, Canada, that cost $2 billion and killed four people, and flooding in India and Sri Lanka from late October through November that killed 217 people and did $2.5 billion in damage. Earth has now had 41 billion-dollar weather disasters so far in 2021; the most in an entire year is 50 billion-dollar weather disasters, set in 2020.

Figure 2. Billion-dollar weather disasters in January through November 2021, according to Aon.

La Niña conditions solidly in place

La Niña conditions strengthened slightly during November, and are expected to persist through the Northern Hemisphere winter (95% chance) and transition to neutral conditions by spring (60% chance during April-June), NOAA reported in its December monthly discussion of the state of the El Niño/Southern Oscillation, or ENSO. To be designated an official La Niña event, La Niña conditions have to be present for at least five consecutive months, with each month representing three-month average conditions. 

Over the past month, sea surface temperatures in the benchmark Niño 3.4 region of the eastern tropical Pacific (5°N-5°S, 170°W-120°W) were about 0.9 degree Celsius below average. The range for “weak” La Niña conditions is 0.5-1.0 degree Celsius below average; the range for “moderate” La Niña conditions is 1.0-1.5 degrees Celsius below average.

Figure 3. Departure of sea surface temperature from average in the benchmark Niño 3.4 region of the eastern tropical Pacific (5°N-5°S, 170°W-120°W). Temperatures ranged from 0.6-1.0 degree Celsius below average in November. (Image credit: Tropical Tidbits)

The NOAA and Columbia University’s International Research Institute for Climate and Society forecast for the December-January-February period is for a 95% chance of La Niña, 5% chance of ENSO-neutral, and a 0% chance of El Niño. At its peak, the La Niña event is expected to be at moderate strength (59% chance), with a 3% chance of reaching the “strong” threshold.

The impact of the emerging La Niña event may be boosted by an intensely negative Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO). The PDO is an index of sea surface temperatures across the northeast and tropical Pacific Ocean that reflects some of the circulation aspects of the El Niño-Southern Oscillation. The PDO can swing sharply from month to month, but usually it leans positive (warm) or negative (cool) for a few years at a time. Almost every month since 2017 has seen a negative PDO, and November’s value was the lowest for any November since 2011. When the PDO is negative, La Niña is more common and its impacts are often more pronounced, so the highly negative PDO of November 2021 suggests significant consequences from the La Niña event of 2021-22.

La Niña winters in the U.S. tend to be mercurial, with sharp frontal passages and a heightening of the usual north-to-south temperature contrasts (colder-than-average conditions toward the north and warmer-than-average conditions to the south). Winter precipitation is often generous in the Pacific Northwest, where both the Seattle and Portland airports so far are already having their wettest autumn on record. Unfortunately, winter precipitation is often paltry in the Southwest, which is currently suffering one of its most intense and long-lived droughts on record.

Arctic sea ice: 10th-lowest November extent on record

Arctic sea ice extent during November 2021 was tied for tenth-lowest in the 43-year satellite record, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC). The Northern Sea Route along the north coast of Siberia, which was open for ice-free navigation during the summer, froze up surprisingly quickly, and strong winds pushed ice together into ridges that are much more difficult to navigate through. As a result, several freighters became frozen into the ice, requiring icebreakers to free them, and supplies to northern Siberian cities were delayed. Antarctic sea ice extent in November was the second-lowest on record, behind only the record-low extent of 2016.


Notable global heat and cold marks for November 2021

The information below is courtesy of Maximiliano Herrera. Follow him on Twitter: @extremetemps:

– Hottest temperature in the Northern Hemisphere: 43.0°C (109.4°F) at Cazanate, Mexico, November 14;
– Coldest temperature in the Northern Hemisphere: -56.3°C (-69.3°F) at Summit, Greenland, November 12;
– Hottest temperature in the Southern Hemisphere: 45.5°C (113.9°F) at Tete, Mozambique, November 9;
– Coldest temperature in the Southern Hemisphere: -60.8°C (-77.4°F) at Dome Fuji, Antarctica, November 1;
– Highest 2021 average temperature to date (Jan.-Nov.) in the Southern Hemisphere: 29.7°C (85.5°F) at Surabaya Airport, Indonesia; and
– Highest 2021 average temperature to date (Jan.-Nov.) in the Northern Hemisphere: 32.8°C (91.0°F) at Makkah, Saudi Arabia.

November 2021 major weather stations’ new all-time heat or cold records: one all-time heat record, no all-time cold records

Among global stations with a record of at least 40 years, one set, not just tied, an all-time heat record in November; no stations set an all-time cold record:

Songea (Tanzania) max. 35.6°C (97.7°F) November 24.

Ten all-time national/territorial heat records set or tied in 2021

As of November 30, 2021, 10 nations or territories had set or tied an all-time reliably-measured national heat record:

United Arab Emirates:  51.8°C (125.2°F) at Sweihan, June 6 (tie);
Oman: 51.6°C (124.9°F) at Joba, June 16;
Canada: 49.6°C (121.3°F) at Lytton, June 29 (record beaten 3 consecutive days);
U.S.: 54.4°C (130°F) at Death Valley Furnace Creek, California, July 9 (tie);
Morocco: 49.6°C (121.3°F) at Sidi Slimane, July 10 (tie);
Turkey: 49.1°C (120.4°F) at Cizre, July 20;
Taiwan: 40.6°C (105.1°F) at Taimali, July 25;
Tunisia: 50.3°C (122.5°F) at Kairouan, August 11;
Italy: 48.8°C (119.8°F) at Siracusa, August 11; and
Dominica: 35.8°C (96.4°F) at Canefield Airport, August 12.

One all-time national/territorial cold record set or tied in 2021

As of November 30, 2021, one nation or territory had set or tied an all-time national cold record:

United Arab Emirates (for places at low elevations): -2.0°C (28.4°F) at Raknah, January 9.

Ninety-four monthly national/territorial heat records beaten or tied as of November 30

In addition to the all-time national/territorial records listed above, 94 nations or territories have set monthly all-time heat records, for a total of 104 monthly all-time records. Six nations or territories have set all-time monthly cold records (including the all-time cold record set in the United Arab Emirates).

– January (10): Mexico, Bangladesh, Nigeria, Japan, Malta, Tunisia, Turkey, Russia, Georgia, Spain;
– February (12): Iraq, Uzbekistan, Mongolia, South Korea, Liechtenstein, Slovenia, Croatia, Slovakia, Poland, Sweden, Pakistan, Northern Mariana Islands;
– March (14): Northern Mariana Islands, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Pakistan, Oman, Jersey, Guernsey, Germany, Netherlands, Luxembourg, Belgium, US Virgin Islands;
– April (4): South Africa, Northern Mariana Islands, Hong Kong, Tajikistan;
– May (8): Northern Mariana Islands, Taiwan, Russia, Qatar, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Dominica, Saba;
– June (8): Cocos Islands, Congo Brazzaville, Mexico, Belarus, Estonia, Malta, Tunisia, Botswana;
– July (1): Cocos Islands;
– August (10): Qatar, Mexico, Morocco, Spain, Andorra, Iceland, Gabon, Botswana, Kenya, Philippines;
–  September (9): Hong Kong, Norway, Saba, Central African Republic, Maldives, Botswana, Dominica, Angola, Kenya;
– October (11): Iran, Morocco, China, South Korea, Taiwan, Botswana, Bangladesh, Antigua and Barbuda, French Southern and Antarctic Lands, Peru, Malaysia; and
– November (7): United Arab Emirates, Bulgaria, Botswana, Cyprus, Taiwan, Solomon Islands, Haiti.

Five monthly national/territorial cold records beaten or tied as of November 30

– April (2): Slovenia, Switzerland;
– June (2): Saba, Paraguay; and
– July (1): Namibia

Hemispherical and continental temperature records in 2021

– Highest minimum temperature ever recorded in April in the Southern Hemisphere: 31.7°C (89.1°F), at Vioolsdrif, South Africa, April 13;
– Highest minimum temperature ever recorded in May in Europe: 29.4°C (84.9°F), at Zymbragou, Greece, May 2;
– Highest minimum temperature ever recorded in June in North America: 40.3°C (104.5°F), at Stovepipe Wells, U.S., June 18;
– Highest reliable temperature on Earth: 54.4°C (130°F) at Death Valley Furnace Creek, California (U.S.), July 9 (129.9°F measured there in August 2020 was also rounded to 54.4°C);
– Highest minimum temperature ever recorded in North America and the highest minimum temperature in the world in July: 42.0°C (107.6°F) at Stovepipe Wells, California (U.S.), July 11;
– Highest minimum temperature recorded in July in Europe: 34.3°C (93.7°F), Kalymnos, Greece, July 31;
– Highest minimum temperature recorded in August in Europe: 35.2°C (95.4°F), Plakias, Greece, August 3;
– Highest temperature ever recorded in Europe: 48.8°C (119.8°F), Siracusa, August 11; and
– Highest minimum temperature ever recorded globally in September: 38.9°C (102.0°F) at Badwater Basin (Death Valley), California (U.S.), September 9.

Bob Henson contributed to this post.

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Jeff Masters

Jeff Masters, Ph.D., worked as a hurricane scientist with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990. After a near-fatal flight into category 5 Hurricane Hugo, he left the Hurricane Hunters to pursue a...