The unprecedented streak of record-hot months that the world has experienced over more than a year just tacked on one more month: Data released Tuesday by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration showed last month was easily the hottest August on record.
That makes 16 straight record-hot months, unparalleled in NOAA’s 137 years of record-keeping. The previous record streak was only 10 months, set in 1944. NASA’s data, released earlier, also said August was record hot, not to mention tying for the hottest month the planet has ever recorded.
Though there are still several months left in the year, it is a virtual certainty that 2016 will be the hottest year on record, and by a significant margin. While global temperatures can fluctuate from year to year, 2016 is serving as something of an exclamation point for the long-term trend of warming driven by the buildup of heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere.
According to NOAA, August 2016 was 1.66°F (0.92°C) above the 20th century average of 60.1°F (15.6°C). NASA, which uses different methods to analyze global temperatures and a different baseline of comparison, recorded August as 1.76˚F (0.98˚C) above the average from 1951-1980.
In NOAA’s books, the month beat out the previous record holder, August 2015, by 0.09°F (0.05°C); according to NASA, it bested August 2014 by 0.29°F (0.16°C).
Both agencies have 2016 as the hottest on record through August, NOAA by 0.29°F and NASA by 0.14°F.
While an El Niño event helped boost temperatures at the end of last year and over the first half of this year, it is predominantly the excess heat trapped by greenhouse gases that is sending those temperatures ever skyward