NewsDecember 17, 2015

The Planet Keeps Breaking Heat Records

Brian Kahn

By Brian Kahn

Follow @blkahn

In news that will surprise almost no one, the third gatekeeper of global temperatures agrees that 2015 is on track to set a heat record after a toasty November.

On the heels of NASA and the Japan Meteorological Agency’s data release earlier this week, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has published its November temperature data. It shows that November was record warm and it’s a given that the world is going to have its hottest year on record.

Global temperature records for the year-to-date.
Credit: NOAA National Centers for Environment Information


November was 1.75°F above the 20th century average, making it the hottest November by a long shot and the second most-anomalously warm month recorded in the 135 years of measurements. It marks the seventh month in a row with record setting warmth and has locked in record heat for the year.

“December 2015 would have to be 0.43°F colder than the coldest December on record to not break the record,” Jake Crouch, a climate scientist at NOAA, said. “That’s not going to happen in December 2015.”

This year will bump 2014 off the top of the charts as the hottest year on record. It’ll be the first time there have been back-to-back hottest years since 1997 and 1998.

Those years saw one of the strongest El Niños on record, similar to what the world is experiencing in 2015. But while El Niño tends to give the global average temperature a boost, a Climate Central analysis shows that this year’s record heat is almost completely due to carbon pollution. 

Early signs already indicate that 2016 could again be a record setter due to the residual effects of El Niño and, of course, the influence of human greenhouse gas emissions. 

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With all the talk about record heat, you may be wondering when the last cold record was set. Let’s just say it’s been awhile.

The planet’s coldest year on record is all the way back in 1908 (it was tied in 1911). Since then, the global average temperature has trended one direction.

“We can see the increase in temperatures over the entire record, but we can see 2015 sticking out well above the pack in terms of global temperatures,” Crouch said.

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