With its latest release of official figures, NASA has confirmed what many have come to expect: April was the hottest April on record. This unsettling news, while not particularly surprising as it comes at the end of a long string of consecutively record-breaking months, shows the warming of the planet has taken a dramatic turn. The news also makes another temperature record an almost certainty, as it now seems that 2016 will surpass 2015 as the hottest year since records began in 1880.
The soaring temperatures are becoming more and more of a regularity, with data from NASA showing that April was the seventh month in a row to smash the monthly temperature record. Not only that, but the figures also show that it comes in as the third month in a row to break the record by the highest margin, being 1.11°C (1.99°F) warmer than the 1951-1980 average they use to measure it against.
— Stefan Rahmstorf (@rahmstorf) May 15, 2016
The National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration (NOAA) is still to announce their findings, but if they fall in line with NASA’s, which they almost certainly will, then they will have April down as the 12th month to break temperature records, making it an entire year of soaring temperatures. This is slightly different to NASA’s records, as they use different baselines to compare with, but the trend is exactly the same. And that trend is only set to go up and up.
With this news, it makes it a 99 percent certainty that 2016 will be the hottest year since records began, according to Gavin Schmidt, the Director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies. Considering that it wasn't until October last year that scientists could tell that 2015 would be the hottest year ever recorded, the fact that this is obvious just four months into 2016 is quite worrying. The speed at which the planet has started warming within the last year is of grave concern, as last year world leaders signed the Paris agreement, which sets out to limit global warming to within 2°C (3.6°F), and endeavour to keep it to below 1.5°C (2.7°F).
With Apr update, 2016 still > 99% likely to be a new record (assuming historical ytd/ann patterns valid). pic.twitter.com/GTN9sPL2D7
— Gavin Schmidt (@ClimateOfGavin) May 14, 2016
This latter aim is looking harder and harder to achieve, as the current prediction is that 2016 will be between 1.2°C (2.16°F) and 1.4°C (2.52°F) warmer than pre-industrial times, even if things start to cool during the rest of the year.
Part of the massive increases in global temperatures seen over the last year can be attributed to the particularly strong El Niño experienced in the Pacific during the end of 2015 and the start of 2016. The warming of the waters gave a boost to the heat wave, but it cannot explain all of the increases in temperature observed. Some argue that even without El Niño, the global temperature would have been increasing at a record pace anyway, and it seems like it will continue to do so for the rest of the year.