With more than two full months still left in the year, Nasa officials have indicated that 2016 may already be locked in as the hottest year on record. According to an analysis by researchers at Nasa’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York, September was the warmest month recorded after 136 years of record keeping, narrowly beating out September of 2014 by 0.004 degrees Celsius. However, the month was 0.91 degrees Celsius above the average temperature recorded between 1951 and 1980. This news follows a number of record breaking monthly temperatures recorded this year, instilling confidence in experts that 2016 will turn out to be the hottest year on record.
Director of the Nasa institute, Dr. Gavin Schmidt, tweeted on Monday that “With data now available through September, 2016 annual record (~1.25ºC above late 19th C) seems locked in.”
If this news sounds familiar, it’s because we’ve heard it before. September’s record breaking temperatures relative to the long-term average mean that 11 months out of the last year have set new records for monthly temperatures.
Last year was the hottest year on record as well, although this was in part due to a particularly strong El Nino event, a Pacific weather pattern that affects air and water temperatures globally. However, it has become increasingly clear that long-term trends also point to sharply rising temperatures. Schmidt commented earlier this year that 2015 would have been the hottest year on record regardless of El Nino.
Nasa’s reports come from publicly available data sourced from roughly 6,300 meteorological stations throughout the world, as well as from ships and buoys, and research stations in Antarctica.
Skeptics of global warming have claimed that temperature increases have paused, and that climate change caused by humans is therefore not a serious threat. A new temperature record set by 2016 would help scientists to debunk this claim.
Other monitoring agencies, such as the UK’s Met Office and the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have made similar observations. This year’s record breaking temperatures were predicted by the Met Office last December, and this past July, the World Meteorological Organization also predicted 2016 would turn out to be the hottest on record.
These estimates most likely won’t see final confirmation until early 2017.
Rising temperatures have already led to problems with rising sea levels and extreme weather in many parts of the world, leading to flooding, loss of coastal land, and stronger hurricanes.