Global temperatures last month set a new record high, reports the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). This makes it the hottest May ever recorded since 1880.
While NOAA says May 2020 and May 2016 were tied for the warmest month on record, NASA puts last month ahead by 0.06°C — the two agencies use different methods and algorithms to calculate temperature, so tiny discrepancies between their results are expected.
Furthermore, NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information estimates that there’s a 49% chance for 2020 to be the hottest year ever seen.
Things are heating up
The average global temperature last month hit 60.3 degrees Fahrenheit (15.7 Celsius), NOAA reports, making it the hottest month of May in the last 141 years (tied with May 2016). It may not seem like a lot, but that’s 1.7°F (roughly 1°C) higher than the 20th-century average, according to Yale Climate Connections.
May is by no means an outlier; all five months of 2020 already rank in the top 20 hottest ever recorded.
Us land-lubbers felt the heat most intensely, as average temperatures over land set a new record, while ocean temperatures ranked only second (not that that’s much of a win).
“The remarkable warmth of 2020 has come in the absence of an El Niño event and during the minimum of one of the weakest 11-year solar cycles in the past century, underscoring the dominant role human-caused global warming has in heating our planet,” writes Jeff Masters for Yale Climate Connections.
“We continue to warm on the long term and in any given month we’re likely to be knocking on the door, close to a record in the era that we’re in,” NOAA climate monitoring chief Deke Arndt said.
Temperatures aren’t painting a pretty picture. The last seven Mays have been the warmest on record (2016 used to be the warmest). The spring of 2020 has been the second hottest after that of 2016, and, overall, the last five months have been the second-hottest five months of a year.
In the short term, such temperatures suggest that we’re in for a very hot year. In the longer term, they reinforce a worrying, warming trend that’s gripping the whole planet. Human greenhouse gas emissions are driving this warming trend, and it will not stop until we address the issue.