May 2020 Joint-Hottest May Since Records Began

A sign in the Death Valley, Western United States a region that saw a higher temperature than average in MayApinBen4289/Shutterstock

Measurements of temperatures across the world suggest that May 2020 is in the top two hottest Mays since records began, tying with 2016. This follows April, which tied for hottest April ever with 2016. The new data continues to point to 2020 as likely being among the hottest years we have ever experienced.

The estimates come from two independent analyses of temperature anomalies, the difference between the temperature measured, and the average from a certain period in the past. The European Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S) reports that May 2020 was globally 0.63°C (1.13°F) warmer than the 1981-2020 average.

The NOAA’s State of the Climate: Global Climate Report for May 2020 reports that this is the 44th consecutive May with temperatures higher than the 20th-century average. It estimated a temperature anomaly of 1.39 ± 0.11 °C (2.50 ± 0.20 °F) compared to the average temperatures across the globe between 1910 and 2000.

While the comparison might be different, the verdict is the same. The global average temperature for May 2020 was 15.7°C (60.3°F), on par with May 2016. The two analyses also point at a dramatic temperature anomaly over Siberia and the Arctic ocean with temperatures up to 10°C (18°F) above the average for the region and the month.

Surface air temperature anomaly for May 2020 relative to the May average for the period 1981-2010. Data source: ERA5. Credit: Copernicus Climate Change Service/ECMWF.

Higher than average temperatures were also found in the Southern Andes, in several Antarctic regions, as well as Western Europe and the Western United States.

The climate crisis is causing a global average increase in temperature but it doesn’t mean that distinct regions cannot experience lower temperatures than in the past. The Northern and Eastern regions of Canada and the US, Australia, southern Brazil, Eastern Europe, and even regions in the Sahara all experienced lower than average temperatures in May 2020. Despite these, the warmest regions both on land and on oceans dominate the global average.

The last three months have been the second hottest after 2016 for both land and ocean average temperatures. In fact, the whole of 2020 so far is coming second after 2016, the hottest year since record began 141 years ago. This new data provides an update on the Global Annual Temperature Rankings Outlook.

The chance that 2020 will be the hottest year on record is currently lower than previously estimated but it is almost certain that it will be in the Top 10 and in the Top 5 by January 1, 2021.


If you liked this story, you'll love these

This website uses cookies

This website uses cookies to improve user experience. By continuing to use our website you consent to all cookies in accordance with our cookie policy.