January was another record-hot month for our planet, according to NOAA and NASA. Even more shockingly, it was also the most abnormally warm month ever recorded, and the ninth month in a row of record-breaking global temperature.
According NASA's preliminary analysis, the global temperature departure was 1.13 degrees Celsius above average in January — a warmer departure than any other month on record. It's the fourth month in a row that the global departure has been more than 1 degree Celsius, which is an incredibly significant benchmark after leaders agreed in Paris to not allow Earth's temperature to rise above 2 degrees, and 1.5 degrees if possible.
NOAA reports that January's global temperature was 1.04 degrees Celsius above the 20th century average, and the ninth month in a row to break a monthly global temperature record.
The reports come only a few weeks after 2015 was named the warmest year by a large margin. Though the warm El Niño event in the Pacific Ocean certainly played a role in the record, greenhouse gas emissions from the burning of fossil fuels have been turning up the heat on our planet for decades.
It was also during a very strong El Niño when Earth last saw nine record months in a row, 1997-1998, but all of those months have since fallen down the rankings, only to be replaced by even hotter months in much warmer years.
It was the second-warmest January for areas over land, says NOAA, but the warmest on record — by far — for the oceans, which blew the previous warmest January out of the water by 0.25 degrees Celsius.
But the warmth was most alarming in the Arctic, where NASA's temperature map depicts a large swath of anomalous warmth. NASA's analysis reveals that temperatures were 2.2 to 7.3 degrees Celsius (4 to 13 degrees Fahrenheit) above average in the Arctic circle in January. This lead to a dramatic reduction in Arctic sea ice, which the National Snow and Ice Data Center is now reports hit a new low for the month — more than 400,000 square miles below average.