Tiempo Climate Cyberlibrary

Global Temperature 2003


About the Cyberlibrary

The Tiempo Climate Cyberlibrary was developed by Mick Kelly and Sarah Granich on behalf of the Stockholm Environment Institute and the International Institute for Environment and Development, with sponsorship from the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency.

While every effort is made to ensure that information on this site, and on other sites that are referenced here, is accurate, no liability for loss or damage resulting from use of this information can be accepted.

2003 was the third warmest year in the global surface air temperature record, which extends back to 1856. Newswatch editor Mick Kelly reports.

Global temperature

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Global surface air temperature: annual values as departures from the 1961-90 mean and smoothed curve


"The world has experienced another warm year with the four warmest years occurring since 1997," reported Phil Jones, of the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia in the United Kingdom.

"The summer over much of central Europe was the warmest ever recorded, not just in the instrumental record which goes back to 1781, but also in documentary-based extensions that go back to 1500," he continued.

Almost the whole world was warmer than the 1961-90 baseline during 2003. The warmth was particularly marked around the North Atlantic sector and the Indian Ocean.

The only substantial land area where temperatures were below the recent normal was eastern North America. Parts of the temperate North Pacific Ocean, the subtropical Pacific Ocean off South America and the Southern Ocean were also colder than normal.

Other noteworthy characteristics of the climate of 2003 have been defined in the review "State of the Climate 2003" (edited by David Levinson and Anne Waple) in the June 2004 issue of the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society:

  • the global land surface precipitation average has now fallen below the long-term average for three years in a row;
  • drought continued in parts of the Greater Horn and southern Africa but the Sahel rains returned to normal;
  • a moderate El Niño event dissipated during the first half of 2003;
  • tropical storm activity was below average in the eastern North Pacific; and,
  • snow cover in the Northern Hemisphere reached a record low in July 2003;

Carbon dioxide levels rose by about 3 ppm (parts per million) in 2003 at the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii, resulting in a final level of 379 ppm.

Further information
The global surface air temperature record is available for download. Links to current climate monitoring information can be found in Tiempo Climate Newswatch.

On the Web
The World Meteorological Organization has issued a Statement on the Status of Global Climate in 2003.

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Updated: May 15th 2015