If the globe is still warming, then why are some locations not warming while others have experienced cooling?

October 29, 2020

Global warming means Earth’s annual average air temperature is rising over long time spans (many decades to centuries), but not necessarily in every location and not necessarily in all seasons. It’s like your grades—if you get Bs and Cs in your first semester and in the next semester you get all As and Cs, your overall grade point average rises even though you didn’t improve in every class. Differences in exposure to sunlight, cloud cover, atmospheric circulation patterns, aerosol concentrations, atmospheric humidity, land surface cover, etc., all vary from place to place which, in turn, influence whether and how much a location is warming or cooling. Learn more hereherehere, and here.

global map of temperatures in 2018 compared to average. Red areas were warmer than average, blue were cooler.

Temperatures in 2018 compared to the 1981-2010 average. Places that were up to 7 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than average are shades of red. Places that were up to 7 degrees cooler than average are shades of blue. Map is from our Data Snapshots collection, and is based on data from NCEI and processed by the NOAA Environmental Vizualization Lab.  


IPCC, 2013: Summary for Policymakers. In: Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis. Contribution of Working Group 1 to the 5th Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [Stocker, T.F., D. Qin, G.-K. Plattner, M. Tignor, S.K. Allen, J. Boschung, A. Nauels, Y. Xia, V. Bex and P.M. Midgley (eds.)]. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York, NY, USA.