June Marks 14th Month of Record Global Heat Wave

     (CN) — Global temperatures have spiked again so far in 2016 and are rapidly approaching the mark that many scientists believe is the climate-change point of no return.
     Scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration say that June was the 14th consecutive month of record heat, averaging 61.52 degrees globally — 1.62 degrees warmer than average. Their report was published Tuesday.
     In fact, the earth experienced the hottest June since records began in 1880, and has not had a cooler-than-average June since 1976.
     Gavin Schmidt, a climate scientist with NASA, says that human-caused climate change is the underlying reason for the record-setting heat, though he says that El Nino also contributed to warmer temperatures before fizzling earlier this year.
     “While the El Nino event in the tropical Pacific this winter gave a boost to global temperatures from October onwards, it is the underlying trend which is producing these record numbers,” Schmidt said in a statement released by NASA Tuesday.
     Previous El Nino events led to record heat levels, such as in 1998. However, global temperatures continue to rise in 2016 despite El Nino winding down.
     Schmidt also says that 2016 to date is the warmest year on record, nearly 2.7 degrees — 1.5 Celsius — warmer than pre-industrial averages. That figure is the threshold which the 178 nations that signed the United Nations-led 2015 Paris agreement on climate change had hoped to avoid.
     The agreement, in which signatories pledged to work together to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, does not take effect unless the member nations approve it domestically. So far, only 16 nations have ratified the agreement.
     “Holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, recognizing that this would significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change,” the agreement states as one of its missions.
     While the symbolic ceremony on Earth Day seemed to demonstrate an international willingness to tackle the challenges associated with climate change, several nations have been criticized over their hesitation to implement some of the tougher changes outlined within the agreement.
     Mary Robinson, the former president of Ireland and U.N. special envoy on El Nino and climate change, spoke out after the United Kingdom gave tax breaks to oil and gas companies and Germany promised compensation for coal power.
     “They’ve (the British government) introduced new tax breaks for oil and gas in 2015 that will cost the U.K. taxpayer billions between 2015 and 2020, and at the same time they’ve cut support for renewables and for energy efficiency,” Robinson told the Guardian.
     Natalie Bennett, the leader of the U.K. Green Party, criticized newly selected Prime Minister Theresa May’s government after it abolished the Department of Energy and Climate Change on July 14.
     “I urge Theresa May to listen carefully to Robinson’s remarks and start reversing the damaging policies put in place by her predecessor — like giving tax breaks to fossil fuel companies while cutting subsidies for renewables,” Bennett said.
          As global temperatures continue to break records, ice in the Arctic continues to melt at an unprecedented pace. The sheet of ice covering the Arctic shrunk to its smallest size since record-keeping began in 1979, and is 100,000 square miles smaller than the previous record set in 2010. The Antarctic sea-ice extent is also shrinking, according to NOAA and NASA.
     “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,” said Walt Meier, a sea ice scientist at NASA. “This warmth as well as unusual weather patterns” have to led additional melting, he said.
     Warming in the first half of the year was especially strong in the Arctic, parts of the southwestern United States, southern Mexico, northeastern Brazil, northeastern and southwestern Africa, northern Australia and the Middle East.
     Central and southern South America were the only regions to experience cooler-than-average temperatures in June.

Image credit: NOAA (top) and NASA/Goddard/Operation IceBridge (bottom).

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