No relief from global warming streak
The planet’s global warming streak continued in May, which marked the 13th month in a row that the average temperature over land and sea surfaces reached a new monthly record. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, it’s the longest such streak since record-keeping started in 1880.
The seasonal (March-May) and year-to-date (January-May) global temperatures were also the highest on record, NOAA said in its monthly state of the climate report.
The May temperature across global land and ocean surfaces was 1.57 degrees Fahrenheit above the 20th century average of 58.6 degrees. The averaged land surface temperature (2.11 degrees Fahrenheit above the 20th century average) was the third-warmest May reading in record, behind 2012 and 2015. With lingering El Niño heat, sea surface temperatures set another record for May, at 1.37 degrees Fahrenheit above the 20th century average.
Some of the warmest May readings came from across Alaska, Canada, Mexico, Central America, northern South America, northern Europe, Africa, Oceania, and parts of southern and eastern Asia.
Areas with record warmth included much of Southeast Asia and parts of northern South America, Central America, the Caribbean, the Middle East, and northern and eastern Australia.
By contrast, average and cooler-than-average conditions prevailed across central and southern South America, central Asia and much of the continental U.S. No land areas experienced record cold temperatures during May 2016. No regions reported record-cold readings and — bad news for coral reefs — Ocean reported a record-high temperature for May.
Those warm conditions extended across the Pacific to New Zealand, which set a new high temperature record based on readings going back to 1909. According to New Zealand’s weather service, record warm sea surface temperatures surrounding the island contributed to the warmth observed in May 2016.
Extreme warmth also continued at the high latitudes of the northern hemisphere in Alaska and the Arctic, where sea ice is on course to shrink to a record-low extent. Record readings have also been reported from Greenland, where the surface of the ice sheet is melting rapidly.
According to data from NOAA analyzed by the Rutgers Global Snow Lab, the Northern Hemisphere snow cover extent during May was 1,033,000 square miles below the 1981–2010 average. This was the fourth smallest May Northern Hemisphere snow cover extent in the 50-year period of record. The North American snow cover extent was the second smallest on record, while the Eurasian snow cover extent was the ninth smallest.
Compiled from NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information, State of the Climate: Global Analysis for May 2016.