Earth has been dealt a hot hand, one that it cannot seem to break. At least, not yet.
The planet’s torrid streak of record-warm months ballooned to seven in April, NASA data released over the weekend reveals.
The average temperature of the planet was 2.0 degrees Fahrenheit (1.11 degrees Celsius) above the long-term average in April, shattering the old record from 2010 by 0.4 degrees (0.24 degrees Celsius).
NASA data now indicates Earth has set record highs in every month since October 2015 and, in each instance, by a substantial margin.
— Zack Labe (@ZLabe) May 15, 2016
The record-warm months have become so routine, some scientists have become concerned the public is tuning them out.
“It’s becoming monotonous in a way,” Jason Furtado, a meteorology professor at the University of Oklahoma, told the Associated Press last month.
The streak of record-warm months extends even longer in NOAA’s analysis. In March, it reached 11 straight. When NOAA publishes its April global temperature analysis later this week, the span is likely to grow to 12 – comprising an entire year of record-breaking monthly temperatures.
2016’s average global temperature is so far out in front of any preceding year that climate scientists say there’s basically no way it won’t become the warmest ever recorded.
The warmth has been particularly pronounced in the Arctic, where temperatures have frequently spiked to more than seven degrees above normal.
Arctic sea ice has responded by dwindling to its lowest extent on record for this time of year, for 48 straight days:
— Zack Labe (@ZLabe) May 16, 2016
In April’s second week, the Greenland Ice Sheet experienced its first major melting event, about a month ahead of the previous earliest dates on record. “We had to check that our models were still working properly,” said Peter Langen, a climate scientist at the Danish Meteorological Institute.
The planet’s hot streak has been intensified by one of the strongest El Niño events on record, during which heat from the tropical Pacific Ocean vented into the atmosphere.
But El Niño is now weakening, meaning abnormally warm months — compared with the long-term average — may simply become warm months. In other words, the streak of record warm months should end, although it may take until later this year.