MIAMI• Last month was the hottest August in modern history, the latest sign of an unusually warm year across the world's land and sea surfaces, US government scientists said on Thursday.
Not only was last month the warmest August on record when land and water temperatures were taken into account, sea temperatures were also the highest for any month since 1880, the United States' National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said in a report.
August beat the previous record for hottest month ever, set in July this year, by 0.04 deg C. When sea temperatures were compared with months of August over the past 136 years, "this was the highest for August in the 1880-2015 record, besting the previous record set in 1998 by 0.13 deg C", said the NOAA.
Are the record temperatures due to climate change or due to El Nino? The answer is yes. Long-term climate change is like climbing a flight of stairs. El Nino is like standing on tiptoes while you are on one of those stairs.
MR DEKE ARNDT, monitoring branch chief of NOAA's National Centres for Environmental Information on why the weather is changing so drastically
The records continue a worrying trend of warming, which many scientists say is caused by fossil-fuel burning and is exacerbated by the presence of El Nino, which has a warming effect on some parts of the world's oceans.
Record-breaking warmth was seen across much of South America and parts of Africa, the Middle East, Europe and Asia, said the report.
"The world is basically dominated by areas that are record warm or much warmer than average," said monitoring branch chief Deke Arndt of NOAA's National Centres for Environmental Information. "This applies really to almost every continent and to large portions of every ocean basin."
"Are the record temperatures due to climate change or due to El Nino? The answer is yes," said Mr Arndt. "Long-term climate change is like climbing a flight of stairs. El Nino is like standing on tiptoes while you are on one of those stairs," he told reporters.
He added that only a major reversal of temperatures will keep 2015 from surpassing last year as the warmest year on record.
The NOAA report came as wildfires in California continued to wreak havoc amid a sustained drought in the state that some have linked to climate change. Two bodies were found in the smoking ruins left behind by the so-called Valley Fire north-west of Sacramento, bringing the number of confirmed dead in that blaze to three, with two people still missing.
A day earlier, the Calaveras County coroner confirmed two dead in the Butte Fire, in the Sierra Nevada foothills south-east of Sacramento.
The two blazes rank among the worst in California history. They have destroyed more than 800 homes and hundreds of other structures, and have charred almost 58,700ha, and they are expected to keep burning for days or weeks.
The state's largest fire, the Rough Fire in south Sierra Nevada, has blackened 57,000ha but caused much less structural damage.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, BLOOMBERG, NEW YORK TIMES