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Another climate change record: July 2016 goes down as the hottest month in recorded history

As global temperatures continue to soar, Nasa data reveals last month as the hottest in history, marking ten straight months of broken climate change records.

By Hasan Chowdhury

It has become a recurring theme, and worryingly so. Since October 2015, our planet has experienced ten consecutive months of human-influenced, record-breaking temperature increases. The previous October, November, December, January, February, March, April, May and June months were all documented as the warmest Octobers, the warmest Januarys, the warmest Aprils; global heat highs are the hot new trend and the data suggests they are here to stay.

According to Nasa, July 2016 is not only the warmest July in history, but the warmest month in recorded history. Nasa’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies has tallied temperature changes from 1880 to the present day, with its data showing no signs of a slow-up in rising temperatures.

Gavin Schmidt, director of the Goddard Institute, stressed how important this was in a series of tweets, one of which is highlighted here:

Nasa’s table shows that land and ocean temperatures across the globe last month were 0.84 degrees Celsius more than the customary level, making the month a tenth of a degree higher than the previous July record in 2011.

Climate scientists have been perplexed in their attempts to understand the factors pushing the mercury so far up the thermometer this year. El Niño – the phenomenon explaining the unusual warming of surface waters in the east-central zone of the Pacific Ocean – has been tied to increased ocean water temperatures and changes in weather patterns.

Important as it is to factor El Niño into the climate change framework, it is highly unlikely that it has contributed significantly to the hurried, upward trend witnessed these past ten months. If anything, focus on the subsiding effects of El Niño risks detracting attention from the pressure asserted on the climate by human activity.

Greenhouse gases continue to bloat the atmosphere, trapping heat as atmospheric escape routes are obscured. Further exacerbating the climate change panic seems to be an unusually high temperature currently being experienced in the Arctic region. Arctic sea ice is the most vulnerable to climate change, and is now at a new low with ice cover down to 14.54m sq km.

Walt Meier, a sea ice scientist at Nasa, said: “It has been a record year so far for global temperatures, but the record high temperatures in the Arctic over the past six months have been even more extreme. This warmth as well as unusual weather patterns have led to the record low sea ice extents so far this year.”

With no clear solution in sight, the ice is destined to continue melting, with longer melting seasons becoming a normal occurrence.

The US National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration have noted a similar trend (mirrored by Nasa) for the past 14 months, and are expected to release a similar figure for July.

Though the rise is expected to taper off towards the end of the year, Schmidt drew attention to how there is a “99 per cent chance of a new annual record in 2016”:

As we confront the reality that many of these changes are as a direct consequence of human intervention, it is very possible that without the appropriate response, we could be contending with broken records for years to come.