July 2016 was the hottest month on record, NASA reports, estimating that it was 0.84˚C (1.27˚F) warmer than the 1950 to 1980 global average, and 0.11˚C (0.2˚F) degrees hotter than the previous hottest-ever months.
If that sounds familiar to you, it’s because July 2016 happens to mark the 10th consecutive month of record-breaking heat across the globe.
"The scary thing is that we are moving into an era where it will be a surprise when each new month or year isn’t one of the hottest on record," Chris Field, a climate scientist at the Carnegie Institution and Stanford University, told News.com.
So here are the facts. According to NASA’s records, last month was the hottest month ever on the planet since we started taking records back in 1880.
The previous record-holders were July 2015 and July 2011, which were so close, NASA said they tied for the hottest month on record (although July 2015 had the advantage of coinciding with an El Niño event, which is usually associated with a sustained period of warming in the central and eastern tropical Pacific).
July 2009 and August 2009 round out the top five hottest months on record.
Here's Gavin Schmidt, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute of Space Studies:
July 2016 was absolutely the hottest month since the instrumental records began. pic.twitter.com/GQNsvARPDH— Gavin Schmidt (@ClimateOfGavin) August 15, 2016
On top of that, NASA’s records indicate that July 2016 was the 10th month in a row to experience record-breaking temperatures, with June 2016 being the hottest June on record, May 2016 being the hottest May on record, and so on.
NASA’s data states that the massive hot streak goes all the way back to October 2015, which, according to Andrea Thompson at Climate Central, was the first month in its data set that was more than 1˚C hotter than average.
The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) uses a slightly different measure to figure out global average temperatures, and has calculated that before July 2016, there have actually been 14 consecutive record-breaking months.
According to the NOAA’s records, the hot streak actually goes back to May 2015.
The NOAA is expected to release its own July 2016 figures later this week, and if they too find it to be a record-breaking month, it will be the 15th in a row for them.
So judging from all that, it’s probably not going to come as a surprise to you that 2015 was also the hottest year on record, according to both NASA and the NOAA.
And Schmidt said on Twitter, there's a 99 percent chance that 2016 will end up taking the top position, and that will render it the third hottest year in a row.
July data are out, and what do you know, still 99% chance of a new annual record in 2016. pic.twitter.com/ndSsbYuedA— Gavin Schmidt (@ClimateOfGavin) August 15, 2016
Schmidt told Thompson at Climate Central that he expects that July 2016 will be the last record-breaking month this year, because the residual heat from an unusually intense El Nino should have faded by now.
Although El Niño was officially declared over in June, global temperatures can still be affected up to three months afterwards.
But that’s not to say that the July 2016 record can be waved away as a result of residual El Niño heat.
"While El Niño provided a boost to global temperatures this year, the bulk of the heat is what has been trapped by accumulating greenhouse gases in the atmosphere," says Thompson.
What's even more of a bummer is, remember that huge climate summit in Paris back in December? Leaders and delegates from 195 world nations came together to formulate a global agreement on the reduction of climate change, the most important outcome of which was to limit the rise in average global temperatures to well below 2°C, with 1.5°C being the ideal benchmark.
But, as we reported last month, we've passed the point of no return when it comes that 1.5°C 'stretch goal', and now it remains to be seen if we can make the 2°C limit too. Guys, we could be in a world of trouble here.