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June 2018 tied for third warmest June on record, says NASA

Isabella O'Malley
Digital Writer/Climate Change Reporter

Friday, July 27, 2018, 12:06 PM - "Did someone accidentally turn on the heat instead of the air conditioning?" "I don't remember what it feels like to be cold!" "Even my sweat is sweating!" Many have heard and made exclamations along these lines recently, and this summer's scorching heat has some asking themselves - have summers always been this hot?

No they haven't, according to NASA. For the past 40 years there has been a trend of global temperatures becoming increasingly abnormal and veering away from normal temperature averages. This past June was no exception - it tied as the third warmest June on record.

Credit: NOAA

According to the recent report from the scientists at NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, last month tied with June 1998, with the second and most warmest being June 2016 and June 2015. The abnormality of last month's average temperatures was determined by comparing it to a baseline period, which is the temperature averages for the months of June between 1951 and 1980. The report states that 2018 was +0.77 degrees Celsius warmer, whereas 2016 was +0.79 warmer, and 2015 was +0.80 warmer.

While this might seem like a minor increase, processes in the climate distribute energy in different ways, and the graph below shows that many areas, including Siberia and Antarctic, experienced temperature anomalies of +5 degrees Celsius.

Credit: NASA

Sometimes monthly temperature averages are affected by large-scale environmental events, such as volcanic eruptions or changes in wind patterns. For example, June 1998 experienced particularly warm temperatures due to powerful El Niño conditions that caused catastrophic droughts and floods around the world.

However, the current El Niño phase is considered neutral and the graph above shows that a significant majority of the world experienced temperatures higher than usual. The data used to calculate the monthly temperature averages, which is open to the public on NASA's website, was collected from 6,300 meteorological stations globally scattered, instruments such as ships and buoys floating in oceans measuring sea surface temperature, and Antarctic research stations.

While there are differences in the scientific community about climate projections, the consensus amongst majority of climate scientists about the relationship between greenhouse gas emissions from humans and rising temperatures is clear.

Credit: NASA

Greenhouse gases warm the planet by absorbing radiation and re-emitting it back to the Earth's surface, with some greenhouse gases having stronger effects than others - one molecule of methane is approximately 25 times more effective at trapping radiation and inducing warming than one molecule of carbon dioxide. 

Majority of climate scientists not only confirm the relationship between greenhouse gases and temperature rise, they can rule out other causes that could contribute to global warming, and one involves calculating radiative forcings. In short, radiative forcings are a measure how out of balance the Earth's budget of incoming and outgoing energy is. The graph below shows that solar energy has positive effect and warms the Earth, whereas volcanic eruptions have a cooling effect due to ejected sulphuric acid and volcanic ash that reflect incoming sunlight. This graph wasn't created by NASA alone, 12 additional federal departments and agencies collaborated to produce a National Climate Assessment for the United States, and they report that the last 115 years (1901-2016) have been "the warmest in the history of modern civilization."

Credit: U.S. Global Change Research Program

The last few sweltering days of June lead into an arguably hotter July where heat waves were experienced around the globe and numerous records were broken - the hottest temperature ever reliably recorded in Africa reached 51.3 degrees Celsius in Ouargla, Algeria. The pattern of global heat waves are likely to become more frequent with climate change and NASA's July global temperature data, which will be released in late August, will likely reflect this month's toasty temperatures and continue to provide insight as to how humans are warming the planet.


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