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Climate change: July was hottest month in recorded history, Nasa says, even as effect of El Nino subsides

Each month is continuing to smash through records, leaving people no longer surprised – but this month is especially significant

 

Andrew Griffin
Tuesday 16 August 2016 09:13 BST
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Heat waves rise near a heat danger warning sign on the eve of the AdventurCORPS Badwater 135 ultra-marathon race on July 14, 2013 in Death Valley National Park, California
Heat waves rise near a heat danger warning sign on the eve of the AdventurCORPS Badwater 135 ultra-marathon race on July 14, 2013 in Death Valley National Park, California (David McNew/Getty Images)

The Earth just had the hottest month in recorded history, and it’s even worse than normal.

The record comes in a run of unprecedentedly hot months. Not only does it break through the all-time record set a year before, it also continues a now 10-month long streak of months that are the hottest ever according to Nasa data.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration calculates temperatures slightly differently and has said that there have been 14 months of record-breaking temperatures. It hasn’t yet released its data for July.

But this one is even more worrying than those previous record-breaking months, since it comes as the effects of the El Nino subside. Scientists have previously said that some of the alarming data could be put down to the impact of that natural effect, which warms parts of the Pacific Ocean and as a result leads to an increase in the temperature across the world.

The new results are important “because global temperatures continue to warm even as a record-breaking El Nino event has finally released its grip”, said Georgia Tech climate scientist Kim Cobb.

There is still a fear that the terrifying results will go largely unnoticed because they are now happening every month.

"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," said Chris Field, a climate scientist at the Carnegie Institution and Stanford University.

Nasa compares its temperature measurements with a base of 0.5C of global warming already factored in. That meant July was about 1.3C hotter than the pre-industrial average.

About 0.2C of that was probably due to the effects of El Nino. The remaining 1.1C is the result of global warming caused by humans.

The new results were first tweeted by climatologist Gavin Schmidt from the Nasa Goddard Institute for Space Studies. He included a graph showing just how hot 2016 has been – and how much of a huge gap there is between it and every other year.

Though the records will stop as the El Nino effect subsides more, it now couldn’t be doubted that the Earth was getting hotter, experts said.

“The planet is getting warmer,” Mr Schmidt said. “It's important for what it tells us about the future."

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