May 2014 will go down as yet another signal that global warming is worsening. The month was the warmest ever — when both land and ocean surface temperatures are averaged — in recorded history, according to NOAA.
And not by a little bit, either. The combined average temperature over land and oceans was .74°C (1.33°F) above the 20th century average of 14.8°C (58.6°F).
That fraction of a degree Celsius may not seem like an emergency, but climate experts note that the earth is tilting toward a huge change if warming continues. A degree or two warmer on average will melt ice caps faster, raise oceans, and well, you’ve heard the predictions.
A key in reading this warning signal is to remember that global warming refers to global temperatures, not necessarily the sort of day any town or city is experiencing on its dot of the globe.
Here’s how NOAA explained this May bellwether:
“With records dating back to 1880, the combined average temperature over global land and ocean surfaces reached a record high for May, at 0.74°C (1.33°F) higher than the 20th century average. This surpassed the previous record high anomaly of 0.72°C (1.30°F) set in 2010.”
Furthermore, May temperatures have been warming fairly consistently over the last few years:
“Four of the five warmest Mays on record have occurred in the past five years: 2010 (second warmest), 2012 (third warmest), 2013 (fifth warmest), and 2014 (warmest); currently, 1998 has the fourth warmest May on record. Additionally, May 2014 marked the 39th consecutive May and 351st consecutive month (more than 29 years) with a global temperature above the 20th century average.”
OK, pause while your eyes unglaze. That’s a lot of statistics talking. But there’s more info from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which spells a bottomline for planet Earth that looks, well, feverish:
- The global land surface temperature was 1.13°C (2.03°F) above the 20th century average of 11.1°C (52.0°F), the fourth highest for May on record. For the ocean, the May global sea surface temperature was 0.59°C (1.06°F) above the 20th century average of 16.3°C (61.3°F), making it the record highest for May and tying with June 1998, October 2003, and July 2009 as the highest departure from average for any month on record.
- The combined global land and ocean average surface temperature for the March–May period was 0.74°C (1.33°F) above the 20th century average of 13.7°C (56.7°F), making it the second warmest such period on record, behind 2010.
- The March–May worldwide land surface temperature was 1.26°C (2.27°F) above the 20th century average, the third warmest such period on record. The global ocean surface temperature for the same period was 0.54°C (0.97°F) above the 20th century average, also the third warmest March–May on record.
- The combined global land and ocean average surface temperature for the January–May period (year-to-date) was 0.66°C (1.19°F) above the 20th century average of 13.1°C (55.5°F), the fifth warmest such period on record.
Have we heard enough?
Environmentalist Bill McKibben has. He tweeted, drolly: “April and May were each the warmest on record. It’s as if there was some kind if trend…”