Earth has another record warm month, but the string may be ending (for now)

Andrew Freedman Yahoo News 20 Jul 16;

June 2016 was the warmest June on record, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reported Tuesday. Global land and sea temperatures were both record warm for the month.

The June record extends the number of months of consecutive record-shattering warmth the planet has seen to 14. This is due to a combination of an El Niño event in the Pacific Ocean and long-term, human-caused global warming, and marks the longest such record warm streak in 137 years of record-keeping, NOAA found.

Using separate methods but similar data, NASA also found that June set a record for its warmth, while the year so far is also barreling toward another record.

Global average surface temperatures for the month of June were 0.90 degrees Celsius, or 1.62 degrees Fahrenheit above average. This was tied with March 2015 for the ninth-largest monthly temperature anomaly on record.

A remarkable 14 of the 15 highest monthly temperature departures in the climate record have all occurred since February 2015, NOAA stated in its report.

The last cooler-than-average month on Earth was December of 1984.

The June record also makes it more likely that 2016 will be the planet's warmest year, surpassing the record set just last year. NASA has already said that a record warm 2016 is virtually guaranteed based on the temperatures so far this year.

For the year so far, the average global land and ocean surface temperatures was 1.05 degrees Celsius, or 1.89 degrees Fahrenheit above the 20th century average.

This ranks as the warmest year-to-date on record, passing the record set last year by 0.20 degrees Celsius, or 0.36 degrees Fahrenheit.

However, the June record was set by a far smaller margin than the other 13 hottest months were, indicating that the planet's fever is waning slightly, likely due to cooling ocean temperatures in the tropical Pacific Ocean associated with a developing La Niña.

This likely means that the streak of warmest months will end — for now — in July or August, barring some unforeseen climate event, like a widespread, record-breaking heat wave across a large part of the globe.

Amazingly, June 2016 also marks the 378th straight month with temperatures "at least nominally above the 20th century average," NOAA said.

The last month that had cooler-than-average temperatures compared to the 20th century baseline was December of 1984, when the average global surface temperature was 0.09 degrees Celsius, or 0.16 degrees Fahrenheit, below average.

The last time we had a cooler than average June was even earlier, back in 1976.

"While the El Niño event in the tropical Pacific this winter gave a boost to global temperatures from October onwards, it is the underlying trend which is producing these record numbers," said Gavin Schmidt, who directs NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, in a statement.

As for global ocean temperatures, the Earth had yet another record warm month, with June 2016 becoming the 40th-straight June with above average global ocean temperatures. In addition, to give some sense of the magnitude of the climate records being set, the 12 highest monthly global ocean temperature departures have all occurred in the past 12 months.

While monthly records are noteworthy, it is the impacts of climate change and the longer-term climate record that climate scientists are paying closer attention to, given how swiftly global warming is altering landscapes from the Arctic to the African Sahel region.

Unusual warmth has been especially pronounced in the Arctic this year so far, with 2016 ranking as the hottest year-to-date for that fragile region.

Propelled by this warmth, Arctic sea ice hit a record low during June.

This has opened up parts of the far north to shipping traffic and other industrial activities and disrupted native wildlife, such as polar bears and walruses, that depend on the sea ice for food and other purposes.

According to NASA, the extent of Arctic sea ice at the peak of the summer melt season now typically covers 40 percent less area than it did in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

Across Siberia, the extreme warmth has helped exacerbate the wildfire season, with huge tracts of forests still ablaze.

Much of the globe had milder than average temperatures during June, NOAA found, with the most unusually warm conditions located in north-central and far eastern Russia and northern Australia.

North America had a record warm June, while four other continents had at least a top 5 warmest June. Africa, for example, had the second-warmest June on record there, although climate data is sparse in many parts of the continent.

Record warmth was also found across parts of the U.S., Mexico, Brazil, northeastern and southwestern Africa, the Middle east and Indonesia.

The only area with cooler than average temperatures during June was central to southern South America.

No land areas had a record cold average monthly temperature during June, NOAA found.

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