Our Planet’s Temperature Just Reached a Terrifying Milestone

Our Planet’s Temperature Just Reached a Terrifying Milestone

Our Planet’s Temperature Just Reached a Terrifying Milestone

2016 was not only the most unusually warm month ever measured globally, at 1.35 degrees Celsius above the long-term average—it was more than 0.2 degrees Celsius warmer than the previously most unusually warm month ever measured: January 2016.* (“Most unusually warm” is not to be confused with “warmest ever measured.” Average temperatures are much more difficult to calculate than deviations from average, for many technical reasons—including the fact that there’s a strong seasonality in average global temperatures. Climate scientists also strongly prefer discussing deviations from average because that’s what matters to plants, animals, and humans adapting to climate change.) The new NASA data confirms unofficial data released earlier this month showing a dramatic and ongoing surge in the planet’s temperature—if anything, that data, upon which the previous versions of this post were based, were an underestimate. On Twitter, Gavin Schmidt, the director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, which maintains the NASA temperature database, noted that February’s temperature record was “special” and commented simply: “Wow.”

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