Included in the data released by the NOAA are monthly comparisons between the warmth experienced globally and in various regions with the expected temperatures for those places in any given month. We measure global warming not simply by looking at the thermometer, but by comparing what we see on the thermometer with what we would have expected to see on our thermometers in the current month over the course of the 20th century. It’s not that last July was hot, it’s that it was hotter than any prior July on record, 1.67 degrees Fahrenheit above the average temperature in July from 1901 to 2000.
By considering warming in this way, we can establish how warm the planet was in any month for the past 120-plus years. So we can establish, for example, how many months of your life the global temperature was below that 20th century average.
Here’s a spoiler: if you were born in 1985 or later, you have never experienced a month that was cooler than that average. That’s everyone currently aged 36 and younger, or about 47 percent of the population.
I made an interactive showing how global land and sea temperatures (the standard benchmark) have evolved over the course of your life. I also included land temperatures for North America, a more volatile metric. (The inputs below are not stored in any way, in case you were curious.)
In what month were you born?
Months colored in red were ones in which the temperature was above the 20th century average for that month globally or in North America. Those in blue — if any appear — were colder months. The size of the column indicates how much warmer or colder the month was; darker colors indicate significantly warmer and colder points in the timeline.
As The Washington Post’s Sarah Kaplan and John Muyskens wrote in our story about the new temperature data, there was something remarkable about the circumstances of a famous 1988 hearing focused on global warming: it occurred in a cooler year than we will almost certainly ever again experience in our lifetimes.
This is not the most acutely important new development in the news, but it may nonetheless represent the day’s most important story.