It’s getting hot in here…and by “in here,” we mean “on Earth.”
Last month was the warmest September in 135 years of global record-keeping, according to NASA’s Global Land-Ocean Temperature Index, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Climatic Data Center, and Japan’s Meteorological Agency.
Data shows that over the course of the month, the globe averaged 60.3 degrees Fahrenheit. From the report:
With records dating back to 1880, the global temperature across the world’s land and ocean surfaces for September 2014 was 1.30°F higher than the 20th century average of 59.0°F, marking the warmest September in the 135-year period of record.
And, to add more fuel to the fire, every month to date in 2014 (with the exception of February) has been among its four warmest on record, with May, June, August, and September all being the warmest on record.
The map below below shows the difference in temperature between September 2014 and the average September temperature between 1951 and 1980.
The increases in temperature become greater as the colors change from yellow to orange to red, with maroon indicating an 8.7º increase over the average. While the climatic changes are clearly impacting some parts of the world more than others, even a cursory glance at this map shows that most of the globe is engulfed in a orange-ish red hue. Disturbingly, some of the greatest increases in temperature (in red) are in the Arctic and Antarctic regions.
New York is Not Immune
While New York had a decidedly cooler summer than most in recent memory, annual average temperatures have been rising in our state for a century. The New York Department of Environmental Conservation notes that “the fastest increase has occurred since 1970, with state average temperatures rising by approximately 2.4º F and winter warming exceeding 4º F.”
According to the DEC, we are already feeling the impacts of this change in our state:
- Winter snow cover is decreasing and spring comes (on average) a week or so earlier than it did a few decades ago; in many areas of New York, blooming dates have advanced by as much as 8 days.
- The ranges of birds that traditionally breed in New York have moved northward by as much as 40 miles in the past two decades.
- Average nighttime temperatures have risen faster than daytime temperatures and are measurably higher than they were in 1970.
- Summer heat waves are more intense, with heat-related illness and death projected to increase.
- Intense precipitation events (heavy downpours) are occurring more often.
- Sea levels along New York’s ocean coast are approximately a foot higher than in 1900.
- Vector-borne infections and diseases spread by mosquitoes and ticks, such as West Nile virus and Lyme disease, are becoming more widespread throughout New York. Current changes in temperature and precipitation favor the survival of insects and other disease vectors.
The average summer temperature is expected to rise by 5 degrees Fahrenheit, pushing the number of days at or above 90 to around what Birmingham, Ala., experiences now. The most probable forecast by this group of scientists, selected from top research institutions in the area, calls for between 39 and 52 days a year, compared to an average of 18 now. (The miserable summer of 2013 had 16 days; this past summer only seven.)
A Fleeting Honor
It’s significant to note that these climate predictions and record-breaking temperatures in 2014 coincide with two historical events this year:
- April was the first month in at least 800,000 years that atmospheric carbon dioxide reached 400 parts per million.
- September marked the largest climate demonstration in history with the People’s Climate March in New York City.
While 2014 will likely set a record for the warmest year ever, the honor will probably be fleeting. As Jeff Masters, meteorology director for the private firm Weather Underground, said to AP, “next year could well bring Earth’s hottest year on record, accompanied by unprecedented regional heat waves and droughts.”