On Tuesday, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration offered both good and bad news.
The good news is that, from a global standpoint, 2018 was cooler than the three years that preceded it. The bad news is that it was warmer than each of the 134 years before that, back to when records were first kept.
The year 2018 was the fourth-warmest on record, trailing only 2015, 2016 and 2017. The fifth-warmest year on record? You won’t get many points for guessing that it was 2014. In other words, if you were born on Jan. 1, 2014, you have lived through only the five hottest years on global record.
This data is a measurement of global land and sea temperatures, viewed through the lens of the average temperatures seen in the 20th century. The chart above, for example, shows how global land and sea temperatures in each month — January, July, whatever — compare with the average January or July over the span of the 20th century. Blue blocks mark months in which the temperature was at or below the 20th century average for that month; red, higher temperatures. The brighter the red, the warmer the month — and there’s a lot of red at the bottom of that chart.
But let’s put this into personal terms. The tool below will take your birth month and show you how many months since then have either 1) been warmer relative to the 20th century than your birth month, 2) been warmer than the 20th-century average or 3) have seen higher densities of atmospheric carbon dioxide, understood to be a primary driver of the greenhouse effect that’s warming the globe.
The tool will generate a chart like the one above, spanning each month of your life from your birth at top to Dec. 2018, at bottom. It will almost certainly be mostly red — and more intensely red farther down. (Again, this is comparing how warm each month was with the century average. Julys are still warmer than Januarys, but Julys recently are much warmer than Julys were 60 years ago, as are Januarys.)
In what month and year were you born?
That’s the reality of the warming planet, over the course of your lifetime.
Not everyone’s chart will look the same. Someone I know, for example, has a chart that’s largely blue; most of the months he’s been alive, temperatures have been relatively cooler than the month he was born.
That person is my son, Thomas. He is 2.