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Global average temperature anomalies for Jan. 2016.(Image: NASA GIS)

Portending a Very Hot 2016, January Eviscerates Global Temperature Record

With the hottest year in recorded history behind us, new data shows that warming trend—now coupled with powerful El Niño—shows no letup for 2016

Jon Queally

Last month was the hottest January the planet has experienced since record-keeping began nearly 140 years ago,  new data released by NASA on Tuesday confirmed—and not by just a little.

January's global average surface temperature during was 1.13º Celsius (or 2.3º Fahrenheit) above historical averages, according to the data.

Making the single-month record even more troubling, as Andrew Freedman notes at Mashable, is that January also capped a three-month period of record-shattering warming, making it much harder to claim that the spike in January represents a fluke.

Climate Central took a close look at the new figures:

This January was the warmest January on record by a large margin while also claiming the title of most anomalously warm month in 135 years of record keeping. The month was 1.13°C — or just a smidge more than 2°F — above normal. That tops December’s record of being 1.11°C — or just a smidge below 2°F — above average.

It marks the fourth month in a row where the globe has been more than 1°C (1.8°F) above normal. Incidentally, those are the only four months where the globe has topped that mark since record keeping began.

As Phil Plait explains at Slate, the latest temperature data comes from "land and ocean measurements analyzed by the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, using NOAA temperature measuring stations across the world. These are extremely high quality and reliable datasets of global temperature measurements — despite the fallacious cries of a few."

According to Sally Elliot writing for The Inquisitr:

The findings emerge amid a series of other studies which have identified similar trends outside of this January — the past three months, in fact, was the hottest three-month period ever — and verified links between human activity and climate change. Scientists from NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) have pointed out that, while the hottest January and preceding hottest 12 months ever were aided by the heat-intensifying effects of El Niño, the extremity of global warming has now surpassed the capabilities of natural weather phenomena.

Though expert cautions the data sets are still open to analytical refinement, experts and journalists who cover the global warming trends of recent years say the latest figures portend a frightening year ahead as this year's El Niño combines with already elevated atmospheric and ocean temperatures caused by man-made greenhouse gas emissions. 

And as Plait reports:

As it happens, we’re in the middle of an El Niño, an event in the Pacific Ocean that tends to warm surface temperatures. This is also one of if not the most intense on record. Some of that record-breaking heat in January is due to El Niño for sure, but not all or even a majority of it. As I pointed out recently, climate scientist Gavin Schmidt showed that El Niño only accounts for a fraction of a degree of this heating. Even accounting for El Niño years, things are getting hotter.

The root cause is not El Niño. It’s us. We’ve been pumping tens of billions of tons of CO2 into the air every year for decades. That gas has trapped the Earth’s heat, and the planet is warming up.

Several of the months in 2015 were the hottest on record, leading to 2015 overall being the hottest year ever recorded (again, despite the ridiculously transparent claims of deniers). Will 2016 beat it? We can’t say for sure yet, but judging from January, I wouldn’t bet against it. 

Last month, a joint analysis by NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), confirmed that 2015 was by far the hottest year recorded since the Industrial Revolution took hold.

"Climate change is the challenge of our generation, and NASA’s vital work on this important issue affects every person on Earth," said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden in a statement at the time.

Those findings, Bolden continued, "not only underscores how critical NASA’s Earth observation program is, it is a key data point that should make policy makers stand up and take notice - now is the time to act on climate."


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