Just one month after NASA declared 2015 the hottest year on record, the global average temperature for January reached its highest level ever last month. Last month, the overall temperature at earth’s surface was 1.13°C above the 1951-1980 average. According to NASA records dating back to 1880, the previous hottest January was in 2007 when it was 0.95°C above average.
NASA’s latest claim was backed up by Japan’s Meteorological Agency, after it reported that January’s global land and sea-surface temperatures were 0.52 degrees above average. The agency added that temperatures in January are rising at the rate of about 0.75 degrees per century. The El Niño weather phenomenon is thought to have peaked in January, contributing to the record-breaking temperatures. “If past events help predict future ones, then we have probably reached the peak of the 2015–2016 El Niño,” NASA said last month.
“Warmer-than-average waters in the eastern tropical Pacific Ocean should start to cool off and shift westward.” But even as El Niño continues to impact global temperatures, the opposing weather phenomenon known as La Niña is thought to be set to return for the first time in four years. The US government forecaster said last week that the return of La Niña is possible later this year, following on the heels of one of the strongest El Niños ever recorded.
La Niña conditions occur unpredictably every two to seven years. While they can be less damaging than El Niño, severe La Niñas are associated with floods, droughts and Atlantic hurricanes. The most recent La Niña, from August 2011 to March 2012, brought the worst drought in a century to Texas and increased the number of storms that threatened the Caribbean and US coastal regions.
Meanwhile, Discover Magazine pointed out that global land temperatures have been increasingly steadily since 1880. And as Thomas R. Karl, director of NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information, said last year: “The trend over time is why we’re having a record warm year.”
– Climate Central