Home > climate change, Earth science, NOAA Global Analysis > Earth experiences 11th straight month of record warmth

Earth experiences 11th straight month of record warmth

This graphic shows how much air temperatures all over Earth departed from the historic average during March 2016. Graphic courtesy NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information.

Humanity’s ongoing alteration of Earth’s atmosphere has now caused eleven straight months of record heat.

The National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration announced April 19 that March continued the streak with an average worldwide temperature that was 2.2 degrees Fahrenheit above the twentieth century average for the month.

The month cemented the place of 2016’s first quarter as the warmest three-month period, relative to the norm, in recorded history.

“The departures are what we would consider astronomical,” NOAA climate scientist Jessica Blunden told the Associated Press. “It’s on land. It’s in the oceans. It’s in the upper atmosphere. It’s in the lower atmosphere. The Arctic had record low sea ice.”

“Everything everywhere is a record this month, except Antarctica,” Blunden continued in her AP interview. “It’s insane.”

March 2016 exceeded the previous record departure from the March mean for the period 1880-2016 by 0.54 degrees Fahrenheit.

The heat was particularly evident over land, where air temperatures last month were 4.19 degrees Fahrenheit above the twentieth century mean.

The agency also said that the average temperature above both land and sea surfaces across the globe during the first three months of this year was 2.07 degrees Fahrenheit higher than the twentieth century average. That is another record, exceeding the previous record set last year by 0.5 degrees Fahrenheit.

In the United States record heat was experienced in nearly every part of the country.

Deke Arndt, the leader of the climate monitoring branch at NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information, wrote in an April 12 blog post that every one of the nation’s climate divisions – sections distinguished by long-term climate patterns – was “warmer than normal” last month.

“The nationwide warmth was the result of unusual, and in some cases, record warmth, generally moving west to east across the CONUS,” Arndt wrote.

The acronym CONUS refers to the continental United States.

Divisional Average Temperature Ranks, March 2016 - courtesy NCEI

This graphic shows the departure from average monthly temperatures during March 2016 for climate divisions in the United States. Graphic courtesy NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information.

Up in the Arctic, the seasonal ice cover continued to shrink in March.

NASA Blue Marble image - March 24 Arctic sea ice cover

This NASA Blue Marble image shows Arctic sea ice extent on March 24, 2016, which averaged 14.52 million square kilometers (5.607 million square miles) on March 24, beating last year’s record low of 14.54 million square kilometers (5.612 million square miles) on February 25. Graphic courtesy National Snow and Ice Data Center/NASA Earth Observatory.

The average amount of territory in the Arctic that was covered by ice during the month was 7.02 percent below the 1981-2010 average and was the second-smallest ice cover during March since record-keeping began in 1979.

Arctic sea ice reached its maximum extent on March 24. Covering 14.52 million square kilometers (5.61 million square miles), it was the smallest maximum on record and was 1.12 million square kilometers (431,000 square miles) below average.

“I’ve never seen such a warm, crazy winter in the Arctic,” Dr. Mark Serreze, director of the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colo. and a professor of geography at the University of Colorado, said. “The heat was relentless.”

Serreze explained that, while the powerful El Nino that occurred this past winter may have helped drive down Arctic ice cover by causing circulation of warm air currents, the overall trend downward cannot be attributed to ENSO events.

“The system has always been variable,” he said. “It’s not like we’re going to set a new record each year. That’s not how the system works. If we recovered in the next year or two that would not be a surprise at all, but it would only be a temporary recovery.”

The average air temperature in the Arctic between Dec. 1 – Feb. 28 was 4-11 degrees Fahrenheit above average for that time period, according to an NSIDC press release.

 

 

 

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