Jul 11, 2016

We just broke the record for hottest year, 9 straight times

by
Dana Nuccitelli
,
The Guardian
This image released by NASA’s Earth Observatory Team from data collected by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS), an instrument on NASA’s Terra and Aqua satellites, shows the land surface temperature as observed by MODIS in Asia between April 15 to April 23, 2016. Yellow shows the warmest temperatures. Photo: AP
This image released by NASA’s Earth Observatory Team from data collected by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS), an instrument on NASA’s Terra and Aqua satellites, shows the land surface temperature as observed by MODIS in Asia between April 15 to April 23, 2016. Yellow shows the warmest temperatures. Photo: AP

2014 and 2015 each set the record for hottest calendar year since we began measuring surface temperatures over 150 years ago, and 2016 is almost certain to break the record once again. It will be without precedent: the first time that we’ve seen three consecutive record-breaking hot years.

But it’s just happenstance that the calendar year begins in January, and so it’s also informative to compare all yearlong periods. In doing so, it becomes clear that we’re living in astonishingly hot times.

June 2015 through May 2016 was the hottest 12-month period on record. That was also true of May 2015 through April 2016, and the 12 months ending in March 2016. In fact, it’s true for every 12 months going all the way back to the period ending in September 2015, according to global surface temperature data compiled by Kevin Cowtan and Robert Way. We just set the record for hottest year in each of the past 9 months.

Running 12-month average global surface temperature using data compiled by Kevin Cowtan and Robert Way.

Running 12-month average global surface temperature using data compiled by Kevin Cowtan and Robert Way. Illustration: Dana Nuccitelli

Running 12-month average global surface temperature using data compiled by Kevin Cowtan and Robert Way. Illustration: Dana Nuccitelli

These record temperatures have been assisted by a very strong El Niño event, which brought warm water to the ocean surface, temporarily warming global surface temperatures. But today’s temperatures are only record-setting because the El Niño was superimposed on top of human-caused global warming