The globe just experienced its second warmest March through May since at least 1880

By Tom Yulsman | June 17, 2019 2:11 pm
March through May temperature anomalies
Overall, the global mean temperature during March through May was 1.02 °C warmer than the 1951-1980 average. This made it the second warmest such period in records dating back to 1880. (Source: NASA GISS)

March through May — spring in the Northern Hemisphere — was the second warmest such period in records dating back to 1880, according to a new analysis out today from NASA.

On its own, the month of May was third warmest.

The map above shows how temperatures around the world varied from the 1951-1980 average during March through May. A swath of territory in North America stands out amidst the yellow, orange and red colors that dominate the map. It was one of the very few places on Earth with cooler than average temperatures.

Global warming in May 2019
Surface temperature anomalies for the past month, the past three months, and the past 12 months. The chart at the lower right shows temperature anomalies globally between 2014-2019. (Source: Makiko Sato/Columbia University/NASA GISS)

Meanwhile, the high latitudes continue to warm more intensely than other regions, with Alaska, parts of Canada and northern Siberia standing out as being extremely warm. That’s clearly visible in the anomaly maps above.

Most recently, torrid temperatures as much as 40 degrees above normal over Greenland caused about 45 percent of the island’s giant ice sheet to experience melting at the surface.

The Arctic’s floating lid of sea ice is suffering as well — as this image demonstrates in dramatic fashion:

Of course, even three months of global temperature readings do not add up to a long-term trend. But what we saw during May through March is very much part of the long-term trend of human-caused warming:

Temperature anomaly trend
The long-term global warming trend. (Source: NASA)

The graph above shows how temperatures over the land and oceans have departed from the 1951-1980 average from 1880 to the present.

The solid black line shows NASA’s estimate for the global annual mean. The solid red line uses a statistical technique to smooth out shorter-term variations so the long-term trend can be seen more clearly. And the gray area shows the degree of uncertainty in the estimates.

Boosted by a super El Niño, 2016 has been the warmest year on record so far, followed by 2017 and 2015. Last year came in as fourth warmest.

Moving forward, it will be interesting to how see the rest of 2019 unfolds.



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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