(This story has been updated.)
NOAA and NASA data reveal the Earth’s temperature reached its highest point in 136 years of record-keeping during July.
“July 2016 was absolutely the hottest month since the instrumental records began,” tweeted Gavin Schmidt, who directs NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, which is responsible for temperature measurements.
It was the 15th straight month of recording-breaking temperatures in NOAA’s analysis and 10th-straight in NASA’s, passing the previous hottest Julys by substantial margins.
“It’s a little alarming to me that we’re going through these records like nothing this year,” said Jason Furtado, a professor of meteorology at the University of Oklahoma.
“Each month just gives another data point that makes the evidence stronger that we’re changing the climate,” added Simon Donner, professor of climatology at the University of British Columbia.
July is usually the hottest month of the year, as it coincides with the peak of summer in the Northern Hemisphere. But this July was more than 1.5 degrees above average in both NOAA and NASA’s analyses.
“July 2016 was the 379th consecutive month with temperatures at least nominally above the 20th century average,” NOAA said.
Most of the planet’s land and ocean areas were warmer than normal in July. Parts of the Arctic were more than 7 degrees (4 Celsius) above average.
“Warmer- to much-warmer-than-average temperatures were observed across much of all land masses, with record warmth observed mainly across parts of Indonesia, southern Asia, and New Zealand,” NOAA said.
Blistering heat scorched the Middle East. Mitribah, Kuwait, simmered to 129.2 degrees which, if confirmed, would mark the hottest temperature ever recorded in the Eastern Hemisphere.
Furtado said the record global warmth was connected to extreme weather events happening around the world, such as the urban flooding in Ellicott City, Maryland, and record flooding in China. “The two are going hand-in-hand, and they’re giving us a picture of what a future world might look like,” he said.
An independent analysis of the global temperature from the Japan Meteorological Agency corroborated July’s record warmth:
The planet’s temperature has steadily risen in recent decades as heat-trapping gases have accumulated in the atmosphere. But temperatures have recently spiked, setting record highs two years in a row, in 2014 and 2015. One of the strongest El Niño events on record, dispersing heat from the Pacific Ocean into the atmosphere, has given temperatures an extra boost.
The El Niño event ended this spring, and the planet’s temperature difference from normal is no longer as remarkably high as it was earlier in the year. But it still remains at record highs.
“There’s been so much talk about El Niño this year, but this [warming] is not just El Niño,” said Donner. “The records set in 2016 have crushed the records set in previous El Niños.”
NASA’s Schmidt said there is a 99 percent chance 2016 will become the hottest year on record, passing 2015 and 2014.
The Earth’s average temperature year-to-date ranks as the warmest on record by a hefty margin of 0.34 degrees (above 2015, the next warmest year), NOAA said.