If intelligent life was looking down on Earth right now, they would probably assume that humanity is at war with the climate. According to fresh data from both NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), June was the 14th consecutive month that was the hottest since records began in 1880. This combo-breaker once again demonstrates that we are incredibly good at altering the climate in terrible, terrible ways.
June 2016 was 0.9°C (1.62°F) hotter than the 20th century average, beating the previous record set in 2015 by 0.02°C (0.036°F). As reported by the Guardian, the 14-month-long streak of record-breaking temperatures is also the longest since records began.
Although this streak was kickstarted by one of the strongest El Nino events in human history, this particular phenomenon has long since perished, and the signal from man-made climate change is now indubitably clear. If our aim is to warm the climate faster than it has ever done so, then we’re definitely on track to hit that ignominious target.
Those looking to prevent this will desperately point to the groundbreaking Paris agreement. Sadly, a recent study showed that even if all signatories enacted their approved proposals, the climate would still warm by as much as 3.1°C (5.6°F) by 2100.
The temperature anomalies for June 2016. The redder the square, the more anomalous the temperature of the region, compared to the long-term average. Credit: NOAA
In fact, it seems that there’s only one blemish on our environmental destruction scorecard – that of the sea ice extent in the Arctic.
The Arctic happens to be warming almost twice as fast as anywhere else on the planet, thanks to the unfortunate convergence of warm water ocean currents and a positive feedback effect known as Arctic Amplification. As a result, every single month this year has set record lows for sea ice extent – except March, which was only the second-lowest on record.
Regardless of March’s show of individualism, the northern icy realms of our world are likely destined for a quick and painful demise. If we decided to burn all the fossil fuels on the planet, then the Arctic will warm by an apocalyptic 20°C (36°F) by the end of the 22nd century. Although it’s difficult to say for sure, the heated state of the atmosphere and oceans this year makes it somewhat likely that Arctic sea ice will continue to set record lows.
It’s in fact this Arctic warming that is helping us to set such ludicrous records. With less sea ice there year-on-year to reflect incoming solar radiation, the world is absorbing more heat and warming even faster. The planet is losing its climate change shield, and it seems that our own species is its Achilles heel.