WASHINGTON, United States, Friday April 22, 2016 – It will come as no surprise to Trinidadians, currently under a hot weather watch, that the world’s record monthly heat streak has now reached 11 months in a row — a record in itself.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), March’s average global temperature of 54.9 degrees (12.7 Celsius) was not only the hottest March ever, but is a continuation of a record escalation of temperatures that started last May.
NOAA climate scientist Jessica Blunden says that the 11 consecutive heat records surpass the previous record holder: a streak of 10 in 1944.
Climatologists attribute this in part to a strong El Niño, an area with unusually warm sea surface temperatures in the equatorial Pacific Ocean that can dictate long-term weather patterns for much of the world. Typically, El Niño episodes last for about a year and occur several years apart.
Another major factor is said to have been ongoing, man-made global warming caused by the use of fossil fuels, among other climate-unfriendly activities.
But whatever the cause, Blunden and Michael Mann at the University of Pennsylvania are concerned that people will become accustomed to the succession of broken records and will not realize the real effect they have on weather – for example, massive changes in what is supposed to be winter in the Arctic.
Greenland had a record early start for its ice sheet melting. The Arctic had its smallest winter maximum for sea ice and it was the second smallest March snow cover for the Northern Hemisphere.
March was 2.2 degrees (1.2 Celsius) warmer than the 20th-century average. That’s a record amount above average for any month, breaking the mark set only the previous month when February measured 2.18 degrees above the 20th century average.
Put in perspective, March clocked the highest monthly temperature departure among all 1,635 months on record, dating back to 1880.
“Most of Earth’s land surfaces were warmer than average or much warmer than average … with record warmth notable across eastern Brazil, most of eastern and central Africa, much of southeastern Asia, and large portions of northern and eastern Australia,” NOAA explained on its website.
The Japanese weather agency and satellite tracking measurements have also reported that March was a record hot month.
NOAA’s Blunden said there’s a good chance that this month will mark a solid year of records. Eventually, she said, the record setting streak will come to an end as the El Nino dissipates.
For NOAA, this is the 37th time monthly heat records have been broken since the year 2000, but it has been more than 99 years since the last time a global cold record has been set.
The average global temperature from January through March was also further above normal than any other three-month period on record.
“Parts of every inhabited continent and every major ocean basin had some regions with record warmth for the year-to-date,” NOAA said.