Watch out, 2015: you may be the hottest year on record for now, but 2016 just burst out the gates in a blaze. According to data released this week by NASA, January was another record smashing month — the most anomalously warm month in 135 years of record keeping.
If this sounds like a familiar story, it’s because it is. After all, every month since last April has broken its respective monthly temperature record. And 2015 went out with a scorching bang, from Christmas-like weather in July to a New Years heat wave at the North Pole. December 2015 saw the largest temperature anomaly of any month, with the planet averaging 1.11C warmer than historic records.
But December barely got to enjoy its title before January came along. and once again, our carbon-loaded atmosphere proved that records are made to be broken. Globally, temperatures last month were 1.13 degrees Celsius — slightly over two degrees Fahrenheit — above average.
There are a few things worth noting in the temperature anomaly graphic at the top. First, the hot spot around the equatorial Pacific is the telltale sign of our raging planetary party animal of an El Niño. But even though Niño’s been drinking and driving all year, it can’t account for the freakish hot spell that’s taken hold in the Arctic, where temperatures averaged 8.25C above normal in some places last month, leading to a new record-low for sea ice.
Even as El Niño shows its first signs of weakness, 2016 is well on its way to becoming another record-setter, raising the prospect of three back-to-back hottest years on record, which would be a record in itself. That sounds a bit crazy, but if we all work together, we can probably do it.
Top image via NASA/GISS