Today the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced that July 2016 was the hottest month ever recorded on planet Earth since detailed records began.
The report confirmed separate numbers released on Monday by NASA, which also showed July 2016 was the warmest on record for the globe.
According to NOAA, "July 2016 was 1.57 degrees F above the 20th-century average, breaking last year’s record for the warmest July on record by 0.11 degrees F, according to scientists from NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information."
"This was the 15th month in a row to break a monthly heat record, surpassing July 2015 as the warmest month ever on record." July is usually the hottest month of the year globally. Records date back 137 years to 1880.
For the year to date, the average global temperature is running 1.85 degrees F above the 20th-century average. This is over a 1/3 of a degree F above where we were at this point in 2015, virtually guaranteeing that 2016 will end up as the warmest year on record globally, breaking last year's record. The 2015 warmth broke a record that was set in 2014.
University of Michigan climate Professor Richard Rood is struck by how small the areas of below normal temperatures were around the world in July. "If this were natural variability, then we might expect that the warmer and colder temperatures would balance. At this point, the warming is beginning to completely obscure the natural variability."
Though earlier months of this year were warmer than average in part because of a strong El Niño, that warming weather phenomenon ended in June. While El Niño's impact can linger for a few months, the record warmth comes within a context of a warming climate worldwide as heat-trapping gases have increased in the atmosphere.
Of course, even worldwide, the conditions recorded in July are classified as "weather." The long term conditions in an area, either your backyard or the planet as a whole, make up climate, which is different from weather. Neither a hot month or an unusually cold one do much of anything to illuminate climate, but the long term trends worldwide and in Michigan continue to show a warming climate.
Dr. Rood points out that warming is just part of the climate change being seen. "The recent level of warming, the large count of record rains and floods, these suggest that climate change impacts will become persistent, major disruptions in the next decade - far before 2050."
Though what we experienced in July in our own backyards in only the very tiniest of factors in the worldwide picture, it probably doesn't surprise anyone that July was warmer than average in metro Detroit. We were 3.2 degrees F warmer than the long-term average for July and we had nine days with a high temperature reaching or passing 90 degrees. Compare that with parts of the Arctic which were more than 7 degrees F (or 4 degrees Celsius) warmer than average in July.
As we consider trends of temperatures and other weather phenomena around the globe, it good to remember that the entire "lower 48" of the United States represent less than 2% of the earth's surface. It is indeed a huge world we live in, a world with a climate that is changing quickly.