The global weather scene is heating up like never before

April was the 12th month in a row where the 
all-time monthly temperature record was broken

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Psychologically, May might have felt cool — especially compared to the extremely warm start Alberta has seen this year. But overall, May was still warmer than average.

This makes it the eighth month in a row with above-average temperatures in all three of our main regions (Peace River, Edmonton, and Calgary). For those of you who are still not convinced that our planet is warming, if you are not convinced by the end of this article then I don’t think you will ever be.

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Let’s begin with global April temperatures. According to both the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and NASA, April 2016 was the warmest April on record, coming in more than 1.1 C above the long-term average. When global monthly temperature records are broken, it is usually by a couple of hundredths of a degree. This April the record was broken by about 0.25 C, which is a huge margin.

Looking at the NOAA data, this April marks the 12th consecutive month where the monthly temperature record was broken. And it is the 17th consecutive month where global monthly temperatures have been in the Top 3 warmest on record. So far this year, the Earth has recorded a mean temperature that is more than 1 C above the long-term average and is actually close to 1.5 C above the pre-industrial average using an 1881-1910 baseline. And it is by far the warmest start to any year.

In fact, even if we see a dramatic cooling over the next eight months, it still looks like 2016 will break the previous record for the warmest year, which was set just last year.

With the extremely warm start to the year globally, it is not surprising that Arctic sea ice is running at record-low levels. You may recall that one of the main satellites monitoring sea ice was found to be giving bad data early this year, which prevented accurate ice data for a period of time. While this satellite is still acting up, another satellite is currently being calibrated to temporarily take over. Even though the data might not be exactly the same as before, overall the new data has only slight differences that do not really impact the overall picture of ice extent.

Although it’s too early to say what will happen to Arctic sea ice this summer, this chart shows that we are on track to setting a new record low in 2016.
Although it’s too early to say what will happen to Arctic sea ice this summer, 
this chart shows that we are on track to setting a new record low in 2016. photo: EUMETSAT

With that said, current ice levels are tracking well below previous record levels. As well, April snow cover in the Northern Hemisphere was at its lowest level in the 50-year data record, according to Rutgers University Global Snow Lab. These record-low snow and ice levels have been brought on by the very warm temperatures across the Arctic. Stations in both Alaska and Norway have recorded winter and spring temperatures that have been consistently above average, with only one or two days coming in below average over all those months. (Does this mean that we’ll see a new record-low summer minimum in the Arctic sea ice? It’s too early to say as conditions over the next several months will have a large impact on just how low the ice cover will get.)

So the planet is heating up. But I still hear people comment on just when are WE going to feel this heat? Sure, we’ve had some warm temperatures, but so far we have not seen any of the sustained record-breaking heat.

Well, it’s looking more and more like that might just happen this summer across our region. You know as well as I do that forecasts going out more than about 15 to maybe 30 days are often not that accurate. I like to say that if anyone is claiming they have accurate long-range forecasts then they must be rich, and if they are not rich then they are lying about the accuracy of their forecasts!

But even with this in mind, the current batch of long-range forecasts for this summer across our region is making me begin to wonder. While the latest forecast to come out by the Weather Company only covers the United States, it is fairly easy to extrapolate the data northward into southern Canada. According to its forecast the southern U.S. will see cooler-than-average conditions this summer with average temperatures warming to well above average as you move northwards towards the Canadian border. The Weather Network is also calling for a warmer-than-average summer, but it kind of counters its prediction by saying we’ll not see much in the way of extreme heat.

Combine these with forecasts of hot and dry weather from the Old Farmer’s Almanac, NOAA, and Environment Canada, and it starts to make you think that maybe, just maybe, we’ll actually see some of the extreme heat that other parts of our planet have been experiencing — either that or it will end up being cold and wet!

About the author

AF Contributor

Daniel Bezte

Daniel Bezte is a teacher by profession with a BA (Hon.) in geography, specializing in climatology, from the University of Winnipeg. He operates a computerized weather station near Birds Hill Park, Manitoba.

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