Turning up the heat
Last month was the hottest May worldwide since records began in 1880 – and globally we could be heading for the warmest ever year on record.
Data from NOAA (the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) show the combined average global land and ocean temperature during May was 0.74C above last century’s average of 14.8C.
This was also the 351st consecutive month where the global temperature was hotter than the 20th century average – and that means anyone under 30 years has never experienced a colder-than-average month.
It follows a similar finding for April 2014 which NOAA also recorded as the warmest April ever worldwide, while the period March to May was the second warmest ever behind 2010.
Global land surface temperatures in May were 1.13C above the 20th century average of 11.1C, the fourth highest for May on record.
For the ocean, the May global sea surface temperature was 0.59C above the 20th century average of 16.3C – making it the record highest for May and tying with June 1998, October 2003 and July 2009 as the highest departure from average for any month on record.
Data shows that it was warmest mostly over the oceans – breaking the high temperature record last set in the El Niño year of 1998 – and this is important because water covers 71% of Earth’s surface.
A study last year suggested that 30 to 40 percent of the heat trapped over the last decade or so has moved into the deep ocean.
But as the depths warm it gets harder for that heat to remain concealed and now the latest measurements confirm surface water is getting warmer too.
Land in the Southern Hemisphere was also warmer than it’s ever been measured. South Australia broke last year’s record average temperature for May and South Korea had its hottest May on record, with Alaska posting its sixth hottest.
In 2014 the UK had its third warmest spring, Denmark tied for its second warmest, South Korea had its second warmest, while Latvia and Norway had their warmest springs ever recorded.
Though America’s Midwest saw extreme cold, NOAA said the planet overall experienced record warmth in the western North and South Atlantic Ocean, sections of the northeastern and equatorial Pacific, areas of the Norwegian and Barents Seas, the ocean waters south of Africa, far western Alaska and parts of Far East Russia, part of the western United States, southern Mexico, and central to eastern Australia.
Not only has 2014 given us the warmest ever May measured across the face of the globe but some areas of the world faced extremes in precipitation.
Parts of Austria and Norway received record amounts of rainfall, while the northern and eastern areas of South America and Australia suffered extreme dryness.
So far 2014 is not an El Niño year (Countdown to El Niño) but scientists monitoring Pacific Ocean currents and are predicting one to start by the end of the year – which would make it even more likely that 2014 will be the hottest year ever recorded.
The reality of the inexorable global warming trend facing the human race doesn’t get much clearer than what you see in the graph below from NOAA.