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OUT OF THIS WORLD | What's Up In Climate Change - a glance at the most important news about our warming world

Earth just spent its 400th consecutive month 'in the red'


Scott Sutherland
Meteorologist/Science Writer

Friday, May 18, 2018, 6:28 PM - Global temperatures for April have been tallied, and it is now the 400th consecutive month that Earth has been warmer than the 20th century average temperature.

Temperatures are rising here on Earth.

It's not a steady rise, where each year is consecutively warmer than the last. We did see that exact trend for the years 2014-2016, which lead to 2016 now being the warmest year ever seen in the record books. 2017, and now 2018, are slightly cooler, though, with 2017 coming in as third warmest on record, and 2018 probably being at least in the top 5 warmest years.

Still, the overall trend is obvious, and as temperatures rise, we are leaving past climate regimes behind. Look at the graph below, and you can see this quite clearly.


Monthly temperature anomalies, compared to the 20th century average, up to April 2018. Credit: NOAA

Since 1880, temperatures have been steadily rising, with the 20th century - and especially 1950-1980 - having a fairly even distribution of warm and cool years. The records since the late 1970s, however, are quite alarming.

Since November of 1976, there has been only one month where global temperatures were cooler than the 20th century average - December of 1984.


Monthly temperature anomalies, compared to the 20th century average, from the late 1940s up to April 2018. Credit: NOAA

From January of 1985 to April 2018, that's 400 consecutive months with temperatures above the 20th century average.

That's 400 consecutive months 'in the red', so to speak, which is a good analogy for our situation - consuming beyond our means to pay, taxing the planet beyond its ability to produce. Being 'in the red' for this long would be disastrous for any business, and it is proving to be a disaster for us.

A different world

Based on the above graphs, we are - very clearly - in a different climate regime than we were experiencing before the 1940s, and different even from what was seen from the 1950s to the 1980s.

The 20th century is used as a good standard to measure other years by, because when taken as a whole, there are enough 'warmer than normal' and 'cooler than normal' years to generally offset one another. Thus, it makes a good period for what we define as 'normal'.

The thirty-year period between 1951-1980 - often used by NASA to compute their climate records - is an excellent representative period for the 20th century, for this same reason.

Source: NOAA

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