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June was record-hot for the U.S., and billion-dollar weather disasters surge to eight

Linda Balas looks at the remains of a vacation home in Wimberley, Tex., in 2015, where eight of her friends from Corpus Christi were swept away in a flood. The United States has endured eight weather-related billion-dollar disasters so far in 2016. (Jay Janner/Austin American-Statesman via AP)

Last month was the hottest June on record for the Lower 48. If this kind of headline is starting to feel like a record on repeat, you’re correct — it’s the second June in a row that’s become the warmest on record for the U.S., although that fact is dwarfed by the string of globally hot months we’ve experienced over the past year.

The average June temperature in the contiguous U.S. was 71.8 degrees — 3.3 degrees above the 20th-century average. It surpassed the previous record of 71.6 degrees in 1933. The first half of the year ended as the third-warmest for the Lower 48.

The news is not surprising given the warmth measured across the globe since early 2015.

May was the 13th month in a row of record-breaking temperatures on Earth. That’s the longest hot streak since NOAA’s temperature records began in 1880. It’s hard to say whether June will mark the 14th month in a row — global temps started to cool slightly after El Nino ended — but one thing is certain: Global temperatures will continue to climb steadily until we stop leaning so heavily on fossil fuels. There will certainly be months when records are not broken. There might be times when the weather seems more “normal.” But overall, our planet is on a warming trajectory, and we will continue to suffer the consequences until we change our actions.

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The consequences are apparent. Heatwaves are becoming more common. Record hot temperatures are far out-pacing record cold. Sea level is rising, wildfires are more devastating, and sea ice is disappearing — something that, quite frankly, atmospheric scientists do not fully understand the repercussions of.

Arctic sea ice extent was the lowest on record for June. So far this year, March was the only month that didn’t set a new record low; it was merely second-lowest.

Snow and sea ice keep hitting record lows this year

The average snow cover across the Northern Hemisphere in March, April, May and June was also record-low, and the difference between those months and the previous record low in 1990 was just over a half-million square kilometers.

Alaska had its warmest first half of the year by far. The average temperature was an incredible 9 degrees above average for the period, and broke the previous record (set in 1981) by 2.5 degrees. To be clear, these records are typically broken by fractions of degrees.

So far this year there have been eight weather and climate-related disasters in the U.S., where the losses exceeded $1 billion. Two of these billion-dollar disasters were flooding and six were severe thunderstorm outbreaks. The total weather-related loss so far in 2016 is $13.1 billion.

“The first six months of 2016 were well above the 1980-2016 average of 2.8 events, and ranked as the second most behind only 2011 when 10 such events occurred during January-June,” NOAA wrote Thursday. “Since 1980 the U.S. has sustained 196 weather and climate disasters where overall damages/costs reached or exceeded $1 billion. Combined, the total cost exceeds $1.1 trillion.”