We may only be halfway through 2015, but already the year is burning up the charts and shattering 135-year-old temperature records worldwide.
With the monthly update from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released Monday, three of the world’s official climate reporting agencies agree that June 2015 was the hottest on record, and that this year is shaping up to be the hottest year yet. What’s more, scientists say this trend is likely to continue and even intensify, making it likely that 2016 will surpass 2015’s record-breaking temperatures.
According to NOAA, “The June globally-averaged land surface temperature was 2.27°F (1.26°C) above the 20th century average. This was the highest for June in the 1880–2015 record, surpassing the previous record set in 2012 by 0.11°F (0.06°C).”
Off-the-charts heat is “getting to be a monthly thing,” Dr. Jessica Blunden, a NOAA climate scientist, c. June is the fourth month in 2015 that temperatures reached all-time record highs, she said, adding: “There is almost no way that 2015 isn’t going to be the warmest on record.”
NOAA’s monthly update comes just a week after the release of two other reports, by NASA and the Japan Meteorological Agency, which found similar results and support NOAA’s conclusions. All three agencies reported that the year-to-date period (January-June) was the warmest such period on record, with four of the six warmest months in recorded history occurring so far in 2015, putting us on track to break 2014’s record as the hottest year in documented history.
“These six warm months combined with the previous six months (four of which were also record warm) to make the period July 2014–June 2015 the warmest 12-month period in the 136-year period of record, surpassing the previous record set just last month (June 2014–May 2015),” NOAA said. “[T]he 10 warmest 12-month periods have all been marked in the past 10 months.”
Since 2000, the Earth has broken monthly global heat records 25 times, but we haven’t broken a monthly cold record since 1916.
Scientists attribute this record-setting heat to human-induced global warming coupled with a particularly potent El Niño event, which meteorologist Dr. Jeff Masters says “continues to intensify.”
“This extra bump in temperature, when combined with the long-term warming of the planet due to human-caused emissions of heat-trapping gases like carbon dioxide, makes it likely that 2015 will be Earth’s second consecutive warmest year on record,” Masters wrote on his Wunderground blog on Monday.
Deke Arndt, chief of the monitoring branch of NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI), explained how climate change interacts with an El Niño weather pattern to drive overall temperature increases, likening it to an escalator ride:
Climate change is a long-term driver, so that’s like standing on an escalator as it goes up. El Niño, on the other hand, is like jumping up and down while you’re on that escalator.
So, the longer that we go into history, we’re riding up the escalator. And now that we’re getting an El Niño event, we happen to be jumping up at the same time, and so they play together to produce outcomes like what is likely to be the warmest year on record.
Furthermore, citing data from the International Research Institute (IRI) for Climate & Society, Joe Romm of ThinkProgress reports that there is more than an 85 percent chance that this current El Niño will last until May 2016, with the strongest period being December through February. As Romm notes, “if this pattern plays out, then 2016 would likely top whatever temperature record 2015 sets — again, possibly by a wide margin”.
According to NASA, nine of the 10 warmest years recorded in their 134-year database have occurred since the year 2000, with the exception of 1998, which featured the tail end of one of the strongest El Niños on record. In contrast, not a single record-cold year has been observed since 1911. Scientists say the mounting heat is yet another ominous sign of the damage that greenhouse gases and carbon emissions are inflicting on our planet.
“This is what anthropogenic global warming looks like, just hotter and hotter,” Jonathan Overpeck, co-director of the Institute of the Environment at the University of Arizona, told the Associated Press.
If humans don’t cut fossil fuel emissions soon, rising temperatures will be accompanied by more devastating consequences—such as risks to wildlife, rising sea levels, and extreme weather events. Climate change and rising temperatures also have catastrophic implications for human health.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, extreme temperatures are the deadliest of all weather-related phenomenon. In June, Southern Pakistan had a heat wave that killed more than 1,200 people, marking the deadliest heat wave in the country’s history and the eighth deadliest ever recorded worldwide. Less than a month before, a heat wave in India claimed more than 2,000 lives and ranked as the fifth deadliest in world history.