This June has joined every other month of this year so far in setting an all-time monthly record for global temperatures, according to two separate federal science agencies – though the globe was not as extremely warm last month as it was earlier in the year.
“Warmer to much-warmer-than-average conditions dominated across much of the globe’s surface, resulting in the highest temperature departure for June since global temperature records began in 1880,” according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Average U.S. temperature in lower 48 states was 71.8 degrees, 3.3 degrees above normal
Globally averaged temperatures in June were 0.9 degrees Celsius (1.62 degrees Fahrenheit) warmer than the average across the 20th century, according to NOAA. That slightly surpassed temperatures measured in the prior record June of last year.
Data from NASA, also released Tuesday, broadly agreed with that analysis, despite a somewhat different way of slicing the information. According to the agency, globally averaged temperatures in June of 2016 were 0.79 degrees Celsius (1.42 degrees Fahrenheit) above the average for the years 1951 through 1980.
That barely edged out the global temperature in June of 2015, when the departure from average was 0.78 degrees Celsius in the agency’s dataset.
Overall, the data suggest the fading strength of the dramatic 2015-2016 El Niño event is slowly taming the record-breaking spike in global temperatures. Current Pacific Ocean conditions are neutral, with a shift into La Niña conditions expected later this year, according to NOAA.
The long-term temperature trend remains unmistakably upward, but the June departures from average are noticeably lower than those observed in past record-breaking months this year. For instance, in NOAA’s dataset, June of 2016 only edged out June of 2015 by 0.02 degrees Celsius. Yet February of 2016, in the same dataset, crushed February of 2015 by 0.33 degrees Celsius.
Nonetheless, it has been a staggering run for the planet of late. “This was also the 14th consecutive month the monthly global temperature record has been broken – the longest such streak in NOAA’s 137 years of recordkeeping,” NOAA reported. Both NOAA and NASA have rated every month this year so far as a record-breaker.
The two agencies use somewhat varying methodologies and datasets in compiling their temperature analyses – which are based on temperatures at both the land and also the sea surface – and yet in general, reach consistent conclusions. In recent years they have begun to even make announcements jointly about the annual temperature of the planet.
Somewhat surprisingly, June of 2016 was missing a feature that has prompted much chatter – an anomalously cool patch of ocean water to the southeast of Greenland, which has been a recurrent feature in the past several years. However, it did feature a curious record cold patch of ocean water off the coast of the Antarctic Peninsula in the NOAA temperature graphic. The NASA graphic, meanwhile, captured extremely warm temperatures over the Antarctic peninsula and much colder temperatures offshore.
Right now, 2016 is running far ahead of the prior record year, 2015, for temperatures. In a press conference Tuesday, NASA’s Gavin Schmidt, who directs the agency’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, provided a temperature analysis not just for June of 2016, but for the first six months of this so-far record warm year.
“This is the first time that we’re doing an analysis mid-year, mainly because the average temperatures for the first half of this year are so in excess of any first part of the year that we’ve seen,” Schmidt said.
“2015, as some of you were aware, was a warm year, but 2016 really has blown that out of the water,” Schmidt continued, noting that the temperatures were so high in the first part of this year that they neared a 1.5 degrees Celsius increase above pre-industrial temperatures, a key threshold temperature in international climate policy discussions, the other being 2 degrees Celsius.
“It is fair to say that we are dancing with those lower targets,” Schmidt said.
When it comes to what caused the record highs of 2016, “we get about 40 percent of the record above 2015 is due to El Niño, and 60 percent is due to other factors,” Schmidt said – including greenhouse gases.
Schmidt has asserted in the past that there is a greater than 99 percent chance that 2016 will break 2015’s full year record.