2016 set to be the hottest after April smashes record

April 2016 continued a string of 369 consecutive months at or warmer than average. Photo / Global Forecast System
April 2016 continued a string of 369 consecutive months at or warmer than average. Photo / Global Forecast System

The run of record heat continues with last month being the hottest April on record, according to Nasa's Goddard Institute for Space Studies.

It is the seventh month in a row to break global temperature records.

The figures for last month also broke the previous record for April by the largest margin ever recorded, meaning the monthly record has been broken by the largest margin ever for three months in a row.

It also means the past seven months have been at least 1C above the 1951-80 mean for that month.

Figures released by Nasa over the weekend show the global temperature of land and sea was 1.11C warmer in April than the average temperature for April during the period 1951-1980. This broke the previous April record set in 2010 by 0.24C.

Nasa said: "Defeating a previous record by a few tenths of a degree may not sound overwhelming, but in the world of climate statistics, computed from worldwide temperatures, this is yet another record-shattering figure."

It continued: "Every month from October 2015-April 2016 has now had a departure of 1C or greater above the 1951-1980 average used by Nasa. The departure from average in a single month had never exceeded 1C prior to October dating back to 1880.

"April 2016 also continues a string of 369 consecutive months at or warmer than average.

"The last colder-than-average month in Nasa's database was July 1985."

Though most of the world experienced warmer-than-average temperatures in April, there were a few cool spots.

Nasa's analysis showed that below-average temperatures were confined to parts of Antarctica, extreme southern South America, eastern Canada, and parts of the northern Pacific and northern Atlantic Oceans.

Nasa's analysis is one of several used to track earth's temperatures on a monthly and annual basis.

Another expert said he believed that new data due to be released next week by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration would show that the past 12 consecutive months all broke records.

Eric Holthaus, a meteorologist who writes for Slate, told the Independent: "It's scary. I'm at the point where I don't know what will happen next. We knew an El Nino would impact things, but I don't think anyone expected this jump."

He said the increases measured by experts around the world meant that within the last year, global temperatures had increased by 25 per cent of the total increase since the 1880s, and that the rising temperatures were having very real impacts on the environment.

He told the Independent he expected that sea ice levels would be found to be at an all-time low this northern summer.

Holthaus said he expected the record temperatures to continue for between four to six months, at which point they would begin to level out.

It all but assures that 2016 will be the hottest year on record, and probably by the largest margin ever.

Andy Pitman, director of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science at the University of New South Wales, told the Guardian that "the interesting thing is the scale at which we're breaking records".

"Climate scientists have been warning about this since at least the 1980s," he said. "And it's been bloody obvious since the 2000s. So where's the surprise?" said Pitman.

He said the recent figures put the goal agreed in Paris of just 1.5C warming in doubt.

"The 1.5C target, it's wishful thinking. I don't know if you'd get 1.5C if you stopped emissions today. There's inertia in the system. It's putting intense pressure on 2C," he told the Guardian.

Most experts believe that human activity is having a serious impact on the changes in the planet's climate. In 2014, the Fifth Assessment Report of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said there was a clear evidence of human influence and that the warming of the atmosphere and ocean system was unequivocal.

Meanwhile, a British climate scientist has released an animation which shows how the Earth has warmed since 1850 and is rapidly approaching dangerous levels.

Professor Ed Hawkins of the University of Reading tweeted the animation which documents the "spiralling" global temperature change from 1850 to 2016.

Hawkins told the Washington Post, which called it the "most compelling global warming visualisation ever made", that he was trying to explain global warming in a different way.

"As scientists I think we need to communicate, and try different things, and this was just one of those trials, and it has turned out very well," Hawkins said.

The animation used data from the UK Met Office's Hadley Centre and the University of East Anglia's Climatic Research Centre.

- NZ Herald

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