Latest analysis from NASA: It’s now eight straight months of record shattering global warmth

By Tom Yulsman | June 14, 2016 2:23 pm

By NASA’s reckoning, May was the warmest such month on record. But Earth’s particularly high fever may be breaking — at least for now.


This map shows how temperatures around the world in May, 2016 departed from the long-term average. (Source: NASA GISS)

Another month gone, and another record bites the dust.

According to an analysis by NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, last month was the warmest May in a record extending back to 1880. By the reckoning of NASA GISS, this marks the eighth straight month of record high global temperatures. And it keeps 2016 on track to enter the record books as warmest year on record.

Gavin Schmidt, GISS director, pegs the odds of that happening at 99 percent:

Even if 2016 does break the record for warmest year, global temperatures could level off in 2017. More about that in a minute. But first…

The Arctic: Earth’s overheated canary in the coal mine

As the map of global temperature anomalies at the top of this post shows, unusual warmth during May was particularly evident in the Arctic — as it has been for many months. Here sea ice is on track to shrink to its lowest extent on record by September of this year.

SEE ALSO: Arctic sea ice continues its downward spiral, reaching a record low extent for the month of May

Continuing unusual warmth in the Arctic also triggered a dramatic surface melting spike in Greenland this month. Here, too, records may well fall  as the summer progresses.

SEE ALSO: Surface melting of snow and ice in Greenland explodes as temperatures soar to record levels

Globally, May was .93 degrees Celsius, or 1.67 degrees F, warmer than the long-term average for the month. That temperature anomaly beat the previous record for May set back in 2014.

But each of the seven months prior to May were even more unusually warm — including last February, which was the most anomalously warm month of all 1,637 in NASA’s record.

It’s quite possible that Earth’s particularly high fever has finally broken — at least for now. That’s because El Niño, which along with human-caused warming raises Earth’s global average temperature, has finally faded.



I created the animation above to show what that transition entails. It compares global temperature anomalies in January of this year with May.

Look in particular at what has happened to the surface waters along the equator in the central and eastern Pacific. The bright red spear indicative of unusual warmth in January’s map has faded considerably to a less intense orange. That cooling is indicative of El Niño’s passing — and, in all likelihood, the emergence soon of La Niña, its opposite.

SEE ALSO: Although its impacts on the weather still reverberate, El Niño has now officially gone bye bye

La Niña tends to exert a cooling influence on global average temperatures. But whatever influence La Niña might have, it will be a relative blip in the underlying, long-term global warming trend, caused by humankind’s relentless emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will be out soon with its own verdict on May. NOAA does its analysis independently. Although the agency uses the same data as NASA, it completes its assessment with a different method, so the agency could have a slightly different result for May.

  • OWilson

    Ah, again with the Earth’s “fever”.

    The earth has counterbalancing mechanisms, and will moderate its “fever” before it gets out of hand. It has been doing so for 4,500,000,000 billion years.

    Man’s line has been around for 3,000,000 years or so, and they didn’t even have an IPCC, NASA or NOAA, or even an Al Gore to tell them how bad things were:)

    Ice ages, melting, ice ages, melting. At least a dozen, we are told.

    Actually the only “fever” I see with no moderating factors, is that of the Global Warming alarmists.

    They believe the world could end, in their own special lifetime :)

    Now where have we heard such stuff before? :)

    • okiejoe

      4.5 billion billion years? Be a little more observant please.
      As for the temperature changes, it isn’t really the amount, it’s how fast the numbers are changing. If the Earth warmed 2C over 12,000 years it wouldn’t be a very big deal but when it changes that much in less than 200 years the biota cannot adapt and you get a mass extinction.

      • Mike Richardson

        Now that’s common sense. But no matter how much data accumulates to demonstrate that we’re warming the earth, and at rates not seen during human existence, you’ve got folks that will bury their heads ever more firmly in the sand. “La, la, la, la, la, la, — It’s not happening if I refuse to believe, the birds are still singing!” What’s bizarre is that they feel compelled to argue on a science blog where the facts refuting their distortions are on display for all to see.

        • disqus_dDOVNnCOZH

          We all know climate is warming up because temperature has been increasing. The point is not if there is global warming but what is the contribution of mankind to it. Over fix something and you will get a new problem.

          Do you want mankind to suffer so that you can have a cooler planet. We learn from mistakes. It is human nature. When it will get bad enough we will find a way to fix it. Not earlier, not later. That the way it is and has been for eons.

          And what facts are you talking about. Can you prove the facts. Can you tell what percentage of global warming is being caused by human activity as we know there are innumerable variables effecting climate. With our best supercomputers we cant even predict precise weather for the next hour and we want to fix climate of which we know next to nothing. Good luck with that.

          Just because you believe in something does not make it a fact. For some God is a fact and they live and die by it but for others it is just a delusion.

          • OWilson

            About half of them admit that local weather is not caused by their “Global Warming” and the other half point to local weather as indicative the we are all going to that particular hell doomsday that they happen to BELIEVE in at the moment.

            To say they are all over the map is an understatement, but they all “BELIEVE” that the “Science is Settled”, and they also “BELIEVE” that 97% of ALL scientists agree with them.

            They “BELIEVE” that solar energy is the future, despite the 3 world’s largest solar power companies just went bankrupt and took $20,000,000,000.00 of US taxpayer “investment” with them LOL

          • Mike Richardson

            Yet you BELIEVE there’s no significant warming, despite plenty of objective evidence to the contrary. You BELIEVE trickle-down economics works, despite history and economic statistics proving that wrong. You BELIEVE that communists are out to get you — well, I don’t know, go check under your bed, you never can be to careful. Strange what some folks believe, isn’t it? 😉

          • OWilson

            I believe that folks who shout “fire” in a crowded theater should be institutionalized.

            I believe the Doomsday crowd who constantly shout “fire” in a crowded planet, should be put in jail!

          • Mike Richardson

            So much for allowing different points of view, eh? You’re more than a bit of a hypocrite here, Wilson. Suppose we apply that same analogy to folks in the crowded theater that smell smoke, observe a fire starting in the corner, and argue for everyone to stay put and ignore their senses and the guy in the front row who happens to be a fire marshal — the jury’s still out on whether or not the fire exists, and someone sooner or later will deal with it if it does. Besides, getting up and starting to calmly move to the exits is just too much trouble or expense. No, if anyone needs to be institutionalized, it would be folks like that, I think. But there’s no need to jail the clearly mentally ill, as that would be inhumane, and I’m all for respecting humanity. :)

          • OWilson

            Read, “The Boy Who Cried Wolf”.

            It’s more to your intelligence level :)

          • Mike Richardson

            Wilson, if that’s what’s on your reading list right now, that’s fine. However, it’s not particularly relevant here in that there actually is a problem that needs addressing. But you certainly have demonstrated an aptitude for Fairy Tale thinking around here. Good for children, probably not the best sign in people past middle age.

          • OWilson

            You might find that age old morality tale heavy reading for you.

            Try “The Story of Chicken Little” instead, it is more appropriate to your level of literacy. :)

          • Mike Richardson

            So you’re done trolling for me? But you do it so well. Thanks for the suggested reading — glad to see you’ve graduated from pop-up picture books. It’s never too late to expand the mind. Now perhaps you’d care to read the overwhelming abundance of studies showing that the earth is warming, as well as those linking it to our rising CO2 emissions… 😉

          • Mike Richardson

            When smoke alarms are going off in your house, do you start arguing over the point at which it might be necessary to address the problem? The scientists who’ve been studying this problem for decades have ruled out solar flux, volcanic emissions, and every other variable, and yet we still have significant warming, exactly as you would expect from rampant emissions of greenhouse gases from human activity. I will give you credit for at least admitting it’s occurring, and noting that at least some of it is due to humans, though you’re now at about the third or fourth level of the game — downplaying and delaying. All while we have better methods of generating energy without further contributing to the problem. Downright puzzling.

          • nik


          • Mike Richardson

            A great actor. Oh! You mean the cycles due to orbital variation, axial tilt, and precession. According to most interpretations of that theory, we should actually be in a cooling period, but that’s not what we’re seeing. John Malkovitch might actually have more influence on the climate at this point. :)

          • nik

            A recent university study, and computer model, found that Malenkovitch cycles, combined with environmental factors, predicted exactly the climate of Earth over the last 10 ice age cycles.
            The current warming is a precursor to the next ice age, and is normal.

          • OWilson

            Please don’t introduce science to these true believers.

            They only listen to Obama, Berrnie and Lady Ga Ga. Obama and Lady Ga Ga :)

          • nik

            I know, its heresy, but I do it anyway as I’m a born heretic.

          • Mike Richardson

            Nope, but you sure seem to have the talking points from Fox & Friends down pat! :) If they’re ever looking for a mouthpiece, perhaps you could drop out of semi-retirement and send in a resume. :)

        • OWilson

          What is truly bizarre is the opinion that the U.N. and Obama, Bernie, Hillary and Gore et al, can do anything about a slighlty warming planet, which is in one of it’s regular and frequent interglacial epochs :)

          (Not to mention sending $billions to genocidal dictator Robert Mugabe, and others like him, while your country is technically bankrupt (you cannot pay your bills without constant spiraling, out of control borrowing), because Zimbwabe is a poster child for your “Climate Change”.

          (Especially now, when the benefits of a little warming are only now being seriously studied (more on that later :)

          • Mike Richardson

            Yep, Global Warming doesn’t exist because Al Gore. You just can’t argue with such compelling logic. LOL … always fun getting a glimpse inside the bubble.

      • OWilson

        Me and my plants can, and do tolerate 2% difference in a couple hours.

        Even 60 degree changes on some days, LOL

  • kapnlogos

    In past epochs when the Earth’s temperature and Carbon Dioxide levels were both much higher, life flourished and there were more species and creatures living than today. We are almost to a point where lack of carbon dioxide will effect plant life in a negative way, and are more likely heading into an ice age than a warming period. Read Dr. Patrick Moor’s article on Climate Change. Dr. Moore was a cofounder of Greenpeace.

    • Wings_42

      I read Dr. Moore’s analysis. Thanks.

      I’m not convinced but hope he is right about the positive effects of rising CO2. I got bitten during the day two months ago here in San Diego by a big Asian tiger mosquito and cursed global warming. We’re in our 6th year of drought and associated wildfires. A triple curse on the rising temperatures.

      So far, the warming atmosphere (whatever the cause) has been resulting in spreading tropical diseases, huge areas of protracted drought with associated food shortages and political unrest, extinction or falling numbers of many species, and extreme melting and disrupted ecosystems at the poles . If not caused by rising CO2 and atmospheric methane levels, what is the cause?

      What if Dr Moore is wrong and we do nothing? The result will be disaster consisting of mass starvation and pandemics in a severely harsher, simpler and poorer ecosystem.

      What if the greens (like myself) are wrong and we unnecessarily go to a clean, carbon neutral civilization resulting in clean air and reduced destruction of habitats. That’s a much better risk to take.

      • kapnlogos

        So you were bitten by an Asian Tiger mosquito that requires a tropical or subtropical climate and water and you attribute it to global warming? Then in the next sentence you complain about a six year drought and forest fires. Which is it: tropical or desert? Sometimes doing nothing is the best course of action if you don’t have a coherent or logical understanding of a problem, or even if there is a problem.Instead we hear from the politicians and talking heads, “Don’t just stand there, give me your wallet.” Weathermen and scientists can’t even predict what will happen two days from now, but they want us to trust them about what’s going to happen in 20 years. That kind of thinking is closer to faith than science.

        • Wings_42

          Asian Tiger mosquitoes need water and warmth. We’ve always had water, including during this drought. We also now have warmer winters than previous years. Tiger mosquitoes need very little water to breed in. A bottle cap full is enough, although the young would turn into very small adults. We were hiking in a coastal canyon bottom (Lopez Canyon, San Diego) that had running water that winter and some pools most years. The one that bit me was about 1/2 an inch long and fat with my blood.

          As far as 2 days from now, that’s weather, not climate. An analogy is that I can’t predict with much accuracy what your reply, if any, will be. But I can predict with greater certainty that you will age, have declining health, and eventually die. I wish you nothing but the best, including a long and happy life, but this is the human condition. Similarly, meteorologists can predict with pretty good certainty (science is never 100% sure) that the earth is rapidly trending warmer, but they are much less sure if it will rain in Kansas City ten days from now.

          That mosquito is a big, nasty bugger, isn’t it? I don’t look forward to meeting it’s relatives in the future.

  • Lorie Franceschi

    Okay then why is it snowing, yes snowing, in the Sierra Nevada’s and the Cascades (mountain ranges, in California, Oregon and Washington) in the middle of JUNE, that is if we are having a global warming?

    • Jim

      That’s weather, not climate. Look at the big picture.

      • Wings_42


        For Lorie, we’ve had 6 consecutive record high temp years here in San Diego, including last October which was Florida summer hot, a heat record for the month that typically has cooler, even nippy evenings.

        But that’s weather, not climate. The big global picture is a scary, extremely warming climate that is severely impacting world food supply, spreading tropical diseases, and rising ocean water levels..

        • OWilson


          World agricultural food production is setting records! and the U.S. continues to be the world’s largest exporter – Financial Times.

          • Wings_42


            But the scholarly journals aren’t really appropriate for this venue. The following is more of a brief summary scientific discussion:


            Regarding US agricultural production, we have been overusing fossil water, with aquifers becoming less and less able to sustain current agricultural production, especially here in California.

            Citations applies to you also. Which issue of the Financial Times? To be honest, I have a hard time believing record agricultural production in a sustainable way. Sustainable is the key word. As an illustration, a store can sell off all its inventory without replacing it, let go of all but minimal staff, and do no maintenance. Record profits for a short while, but not sustainable. Or, Brazil could plow under most of Amazonia and get record agricultural production for three years, but not sustainable.

          • OWilson

            Donnish Nigeria? You take spam from there?

            Union of Concerned (anything)?

            Google U.N, USDA, and, FAO

            “Global crop production has expanded threefold over the past 50 years, largely through higher yields per unit of land and crop intensification.
            Global per capita food supply rose from about 2 200 kcal/day in the early 1960s to over 2 800 kcal/day by 2009. At 3 370 kcal/person/day, Europe currently has the highest average per capita food supply”. – FAO latest figures.

            Guaranteed never to make “Breaking News” on Wolf’s CNN. LOL

          • Talli Sman

            Breaking news this just in!!!!
            Just kidding!!!
            You know when you tell someone it’s a good thing and they freak out? Well, it’s like when you call climate change weather and they call you stupid for saying so, well this is straight out of the dictionary!!!
            “The difference between weather and climate is a measure of time. Weather is what conditions of the atmosphere are over a short period of time, and climate is how the atmosphere “behaves” over relatively long periods of time.”
            But the one thing that ALL neglect to mention is we are in a Soloar system in a galaxy that is forever changing, they can predict that the sun will expire on a given millennium some 100 billion years from now and in the same breath say that the sun will swallow the earth in say 50 billion years from now (think about that last one long and hard) yet some how the inhabitants of earth are the cause of weather changes…, CC, yeah right!!! If in 50 billion years the earth will be swallowed by the sun then one or two things are gonna have to happen either sun gets bigger (hmmm the earth would be warming) or the earth is moving closer to the sun (hmmm the earth would be warming) but in Al Gore twisted mind it’s because a cow farted!!!
            Got Cha!!!

    • okiejoe

      Is it snowing anywhere else in the Northern Hemisphere?

    • OWilson

      Don’y you know?

      That is the “bizarre’ weather that is going to annihilate us all because of Global Warming!

      • Wings_42

        Sarcasm isn’t reasoned argument and doesn’t increase understanding or wise decision making, Mister Smartypants!

        • OWilson

          Neither is childish name calling, LOL

  • MrPhil99

    The political difference of opinion is a question of money, not the climate: Shall the US institute regulations on industry to reduce carbon emissions – regulations that would require replacement of aged technology with something more efficient…at great cost? It’s that “great cost” part that has everyone’s undies in a bunch; were it not for that, there would be no debate. Everyone knows it’s the right thing to do, just some refuse to admit it. Anyone remember the stink over leaded gasoline? Same thing writ small.

  • nik

    EIGHT MONTHS in 4.5 BILLION years is hardly significant.



ImaGeo is a visual blog focusing on the intersection of imagery, imagination and Earth. It focuses on spectacular visuals related to the science of our planet, with an emphasis (although not an exclusive one) on the unfolding Anthropocene Epoch.

About Tom Yulsman

Tom Yulsman is Director of the Center for Environmental Journalism and a Professor of Journalism at the University of Colorado, Boulder. He also continues to work as a science and environmental journalist with more than 30 years of experience producing content for major publications. His work has appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, Audubon, Climate Central, Columbia Journalism Review, Discover, Nieman Reports, and many other publications. He has held a variety of editorial positions over the years, including a stint as editor-in-chief of Earth magazine. Yulsman has written one book: Origins: the Quest for Our Cosmic Roots, published by the Institute of Physics in 2003.


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