Ever since October, I've been chronicling both the sea surface temperatures in the Niño 3.4 region of the Pacific Ocean, and the Temperature of the Lower Troposphere (TLT) satellite data product from Remote Sensing Systems (remss.com). I've been comparing the progression of the really big El Niño event of 1997-1998 and the really, really big El Niño event of 2015-2016. These two events have had a remarkable parallel progression every month since then.
In January, it appeared that the TLT would threaten its previous all-time highs from 1998 in February and subsequent months. But I didn't know for sure, obviously. The unique weather patterns over the U.S. were indicative of major influence, but until the data comes in, there was no certainty.
That has changed. There's a particular reason that I was interested in the REMSS TLT -- it's because it has been the featured go-to satellite temperature data set of climate denial, because (partly due to a global warming slowdown in the first decade of the 21st century) it was used to claim that there hasn't been global warming for a period of several years. That claim was made despite the surface temperature record warming substantially, and a massive collection of phenological data.
When I started making the plots, I could see that the TLTs in 2015 were about 0.2 deg C higher than in 1998, a "baseline" warming that is consistent with what the surface record was showing. So when the TLTs started heading up, it was easy to anticipate that the peak could be roughly 0.2 deg C higher than in 1998.
Well, it sure is.
It could go even higher. But as of now, the February 2016 TLT is the highest ever recorded in the REMSS data, and the climate deniers can't say that there's been no global warming any more. And like in 1998, these high El Niño, err, fossil fuel-fueled temperatures are going to yank that trend upward.
The last bastion has fallen.
One note about this plot; I averaged the four weekly Niño 3.4 SST anomalies to get the SST anomaly for February, so I may adjust it slightly when the official monthly temperature is announced in a couple of days.