Climate change: NASA records show February as the hottest month on record

Every time I write up a story about the Earth’s temperature heating up, I’m reminded of the “boiling frog” anecdote, which (dubiously) states that if a frog is heated up at a slow enough temperature, it won’t notice the slow increase and its imminent demise. Picture a whole pot of frogs, with an increasing majority waving their froggy limbs furiously, while a handful shrug and protest that there’s nothing to be done.

We’re in the third month of 2016. January broke records as being the hottest on record, and now February has done it again by an unprecedented amount, according to NASA data.

So, how bad was it? Well in January, global surface temperatures were 1.15˚C above the average for the baseline period of 1951-1980. February smashes that, with a rise of 1.35˚C above the average for the month.

It’s not the hottest month on record – that would be tough when the northern hemisphere isn’t enjoying a summer – but if current trends continue, this won’t be the last temperature rise you read about in 2016.

“This is really quite stunning… it’s completely unprecedented,” said Professor Stefan Rahmstorf, from the Potsdam Institute of Climate Impact Research, to The Sydney Morning Herald. “We are in a kind of climate emergency now.”

But what about El Niño – that could help explain the record temperatures, right? It won’t have helped, but comparing the trends to the giant El Niño of 1997-98 shows temperatures still running 0.5˚C hotter. Just as well the world’s governments have agreed a historical global effort to reduce carbon emissions.

“Governments have promised to act and they need to do better than what they promised in Paris,” Professor Rahmstorf added.


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Image: NASA Goddard

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