El Nino is over but Earth continues to sizzle

Last month was hottest May, temperatures break records for 13 months in a row

NEW YORK • It's no longer a question of whether 2016 will be the hottest on record, but by how much.

The El Nino warming pattern in the Pacific Ocean is over, but unprecedented heat remains across the planet.

Last month was the hottest May in modern history, marking the 13th consecutive month that global temperature records have been shattered, the United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said on Thursday.

That makes it the longest such streak in the 137 years of record-keeping.

"The globally averaged temperature over land and ocean surfaces for May 2016 was the highest for the month of May in the NOAA global temperature dataset record, which dates back to 1880," the agency said in a statement.

The powerful but waning El Nino weather phenomenon - which tends to warm equatorial waters in the Pacific - may have contributed to this year's record, climate scientists said, but does not explain all of it.

"The state of the climate so far this year gives us much cause for alarm," World Climate Research Programme director David Carlson director said. "The super El Nino is only partly to blame. Abnormal is the new normal."

May's combined average temperature came to 1.57 deg F (0.87 deg C) above the 20th-century average for the month of 58.6 deg F (14.8 deg C). That was 0.04 deg F (0.02 deg C) above the previous record for May, which was set last year.

This May tied with last June and August as the 12th-highest monthly temperature increase on record, NOAA said.

May's record temperatures were accompanied by other extreme weather events, including heavy rainfall in Europe and the southern US. Overall, 13 of the 15 monthly high-temperature rec- ords have taken place since last February, it added.

Experts say global warming is contributing to a growing number of environmental disasters around the world, from the bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef to the wildfires raging across Canada.

Last year marked the hottest on record so far, beating 2014, which previously held the title.

With 13 months in a row now setting records for heat, 2016 - although not quite half over yet - is on track to be another scorching year.

The World Bank said last month that the global community is not prepared for a swift increase in climate change-related natural disasters - such as floods and droughts - which will put 1.3 billion people at risk by 2050.

Beyond the cyclical changes, there's no escaping the larger trend that we live on a planet that is warming rapidly.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 18, 2016, with the headline 'El Nino is over but Earth continues to sizzle'. Print Edition | Subscribe