Despite the 'polar vortex', 2014 is on track to be 3rd hottest year on record
Sorry, a cold winter doesn't mean global warming is cancelledYou'd think that this year's polar vortex, which everybody was talking about in North-America, would mean that 2014 is a particularly cold year. But what matters is the global average temperature on Earth; North-America isn't the world, and other parts of the planet had record heat waves this year. In fact, things got so bad in Australia that bats were passing out from the heat and falling from the trees. There's also a perception issue: As the planet is warming up, people become less used to cold waves than they used to be, so every time there's one they notice it more. This is well explained by this webcomic:
But back to 2014. As you can see on the map created by NOAA at the top of this article, most of the planet was closer to breaking heat records than cold records so far this year. The blue section over North-America is more the exception than the norm.
This chart clearly shows how 2014 so far compares to the 5 warmest years on record. You can see the big dip in February, but the rest of the year is fairly close to record-breaking, and if things keep going the way they are, we could end up with the third hottest year since records began in 1880, with global average surface temperature for January through July being 1.2 degrees Fahrenheit (0.66 degrees Celsius) above the 20th century average.
This has very real impacts. The record-breaking drought in California - which some scientists think could last for a decade ore more - certainly isn't helped by the warmer temperatures.
Things might be a bit fuzzy on the graph above because it didn't resize well (you can see the full-size version here), but the important parts are the red lines and green lines. The red ones show the 5 warmest years one record, and they are for the years: 2010, 2005, 1998, 2013, 2003. The green line is 2014 so far.
Above is a map of anomalies so far this year (full-size version here).