We’ve said it before. We said it when last May was the hottest May on record. When June was the hottest June on record. We said it again when July was not only the hottest July on record, but the hottest month, period. And because that wasn’t enough, we had to say it again when August tied July for hottest month ever. Apparently we neglected to mention that September was the hottest September on record, but yeah, that also happened.
There are really only so many ways you can say the same thing again and again, but that hasn’t stopped the World Meteorological Organization from saying it again: It’s getting hot in here.
To be fair, there are mitigating circumstances this year. The early months of the year were much warmer than usual because of a strong El Niño event in the Pacific that disrupted regular weather patterns. These events can worsen droughts and flooding (mostly in South America, but also elsewhere across the world), but even a powerful El Niño isn’t enough to explain the alarming warming trend over the first part of this year.
From January to September, the report notes that global temperatures were, on average, almost 1.2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial temperatures (0.9 degrees Celsius above the 1961-1990 reference period). The winter was particularly warm, with February and March both over 1 degree Celsius above the reference. But that’s just the average: Some locations around the world featured much more significant warming. Portions of Siberia had temperatures that were 6 to 7 degrees Celsius higher than usual.
The issues extend beyond just a warming temperature. Greenhouse gas concentrations are up, Arctic ice coverage is well below normal, and while Antarctic ice coverage has been faring better, it’s still dwindling. High-impact events like floods, wildfires, and hurricanes are exacerbating the situation as they grow stronger and more frequent.
The planet’s average temperature continues to creep closer to 2 degrees Celsius over pre-industrial levels, the cut-off goal identified in last year’s Paris Climate Agreement. Over 100 countries have ratified the agreement, together representing 84 percent of global emissions. And even though the United States may be pulling out, many other countries have said they remain committed to the agreement. With any luck, then, we may be able to stop saying the same thing over and over again.