According to federal scientists the planet shattered monthly heat records for an unprecedented 12th straight month, as April smashed the old record by half a degree.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s monthly climate calculation said Earth’s average temperature in April was 58.7 degrees. That’s 2 degrees warmer than the 20th century average and well past the old record set in 2010. The Southern Hemisphere led the way, with South America, Africa and Asia all having their warmest Aprils on record, NOAA climate scientist Ahira Sanchez-Lugo said. NASA was among other organizations that said April was the hottest on record.
The last month that wasn’t record hot was April 2015. The last month Earth wasn’t hotter than the 20th century average was December 1984, and the last time Earth set a monthly cold record was almost 100 years ago, in December 1916, according to NOAA records.
“These kinds of records may not be that interesting, but so many in a row that break the previous records by so much indicates that we’re entering uncharted climatic territory (for modern human society),” said Texas A&M University climate scientist Andrew Dessler.
At NOAA’s climate monitoring headquarters in Asheville, N.C., “we are feeling like broken records stating the same thing” each month, Sanchez-Lugo said.
And more heat meant record-low snow for the Northern Hemisphere in April, according to NOAA and the Rutgers Global Snow Lab. Snow coverage in April was 890,000 square miles below the 30-year average.
Sanchez-Lugo and other scientists say ever-increasing man-made global warming is pushing temperatures higher, and the weather oscillation El Niño — a warming of parts of the Pacific Ocean that changes weather worldwide — makes it even hotter.
The current El Niño, which is fading, is one of the strongest on record and is about as strong as the 1997-98 El Niño. But 2016 so far is 0.81 degrees warmer than 1998 so “you can definitely see that climate change has an impact,” Sanchez-Lugo said.
Given that each month this year has been record hot, it is not surprising that the average of the first four months of 2016 were 2.05 degrees higher than the 20th century average and beat last year’s record by 0.54 degrees.
Last year was the hottest year by far, beating out 2014, which also was a record. But 2016’s start “is unprecedented basically” and in general half a degree warmer than 2015, Sanchez-Lugo said.