Aug 17, 2016

Warmest July--and Warmest Month--On Record for the Globe

by
Jeff Masters and Bob Henson
,
Weather Underground
Departure of temperature from average for July 2016, the warmest July for the globe since record keeping began in 1880. Pockets of record warmth were observed across every major ocean basin and over a few land areas. Image: National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI)
Departure of temperature from average for July 2016, the warmest July for the globe since record keeping began in 1880. Pockets of record warmth were observed across every major ocean basin and over a few land areas. Image: National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI)

July 2016 was Earth's warmest July since record keeping began in 1880, said NOAA's National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI) on Wednesday. In the NOAA database, July 2016 came in 0.87°C (1.15°F) warmer than the 20th-century average for July, beating the previous record for July, set in 2015, by 0.06°C. NASA also reported the warmest July in its database.

Even more impressive, July 2016 was also Earth’s warmest month in recorded history in absolute terms. This is because July is the planet’s hottest month of the year overall.

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July 2016 marked the 15th consecutive month that NOAA’s global monthly temperature record was broken, which is the longest such streak since global temperature records began in 1880. The record-warm July extended to both global ocean and global land temperatures in the NOAA database.

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With the powerful 2015-16 El Niño event now over, the impressive global warmth in recent months can mostly be attributed to the steady build-up of heat-trapping greenhouse gases due to human activities. NOAA’s global surface temperature for the year so far (January-July 2016) is 1.03°C (1.85°F) above the 20th-century average and a remarkable 0.19°C (0.34°F) warmer than the previous January-to-July record, set in 2015.

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Following the 1997-98 “super” El Niño, monthly global temperature records were set through August 1998. The departure of the equally strong 2015-16 El Niño and the possible arrival of La Niña late this year should allow temperatures to drop slightly, perhaps breaking our string of record-warm months sometime in the near future. However, temperatures would have to plummet between now and December in order to keep 2016 from becoming the warmest year in global record keeping. According to Gavin Schmidt, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute of Space Studies, there is a 99 percent chance that 2016 will end up as Earth’s third consecutive hottest year on record