May Ties for Hottest on Record

May 2020 tied for the hottest May on record, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. (Photo courtesy of NOAA)

(CN) — It’s heating up fast. The United States, along with much of the world, experienced the highest May temperatures since record keeping began 141 years ago, the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced Friday.

The average global surface temperature in May 2020 was 1.71 degrees Fahrenheit above the 20th century average of 58.6 degrees, tying it with May 2016 for the hottest on record, which saw an increase above average of 1.91 degrees.

Regions around the globe experienced peak May temperatures ranking among the top five highest in recorded history, while many areas saw their hottest May temperatures ever. The 10 warmest Mays on record all happened after 1998, with 2014–20 being the hottest.

“Record warm January–May temperatures were present across parts of the Atlantic, southern Pacific, and southern Indian oceans, as well as Europe, southern North America, South America, Africa and across a large portion of northern Asia,” according to the NOAA report.

“May 2020 marked the 44th consecutive May and the 425th consecutive month with temperatures, at least nominally, above the 20th century average,” the authors added.

Warming temperatures often lead to anomalous weather patterns, even across otherwise unaffected areas. In late May, Northern Illinois and central Michigan experienced record rain fall, while the southwest United States reported extreme heat and wildfires, and the Caribbean recorded its second-warmest May ever.

Southeastern Europe experienced a heatwave from May 16-19 with temperatures spiking over 104 degrees, at the same time Asia has experienced its hottest May on record at 3.76 degrees above average. Meanwhile, Australia recorded its lowest average temperature since 2011.

“The global land-only surface temperature for May 2020 was also the highest on record at 2.50 degrees (1.39C) above the 20th century average of 52.0 (11.1C),” NOAA said in its report. “This was 0.07 (0.04C) above the previous record set in 2012. The 10 highest global land-only surface temperature departures have occurred since 2010.”

Rising temperatures also give way to rising sea levels, which affect many coastal communities around the globe through flooding and the loss of usable land-mass.

The range of Antarctic sea ice fell 3.3% below its 1981-2010 average and represents the 15th smallest May sea ice area on record, marking the fifth consecutive May where sea ice levels declined below average. Snow cover in the northern hemisphere has also declined below average, with May 2020 representing the sixth-smallest level of snow cover in the NOAA’s 54-year record.

Warming temperatures often lead to unpredictable weather patterns in certain areas, while drought conditions take hold throughout much of the world.

“After spending multiple days stationary over southern Mexico, Tropical Storm Cristobal tracked north across the Gulf of Mexico and made landfall in southeast Louisiana on June 7. The heaviest rainfall occurred to the east of its landfall. 7-day precipitation amounts (ending June 9) exceeded 5 inches, with locally higher amounts, from the Mississippi Gulf Coast east to the Florida Panhandle,” according to the United States drought monitor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Meanwhile, a rapidly developing drought is spreading across the southern Great Plains of the United States, caused by a 50% decline in average rainfall across much of western Oklahoma and the Texas Panhandle. Southeast Colorado is experiencing an extreme drought at the moment with soil moisture levels dropping to the lowest 5th percentile, while the city of Trinidad, Colorado is in the midst of its driest January-June on record.

Drought conditions in Northern California were alleviated slightly thanks to a series of late-spring rains, though the state has still seen below average levels of rainfall this year. A severe drought is also expanding across Hawaii at the moment, while Alaska, unsurprisingly, remains drought-free.

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