Earth’s accelerated warming trend continued this August, as the sweltering month proved to be one of the hottest Augusts in recorded history.
In fact, each of the last five Augusts are now the warmest since reliable record-keeping began nearly 140 years ago, in the early 1880s. August 2018 is officially the fifth-warmest, but nearly indistinguishable from 2014, 2015, and 2017.
Both data from NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies and that of other experts confirmed the warm, well above average temperatures.
“The data show that global warming continues relentlessly, as predicted already in the 1970s,” climate scientist Stefan Rahmstorf, head of Earth System Analysis at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, said over email.
“And this warming has consequences,” continued Rahmstorf.
“It raises sea levels and makes storm surges worse, it makes the atmosphere wetter, leading to flooding from extreme rainfall, and warming ocean temperatures provide extra energy to tropical storms.”
As the planet warms, the air is capable of holding more water. Specifically, for every 1 degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit) of warming, the air can hold 7 percent more water, providing more fuel for storms.
These days, very few places on Earth are experiencing temperatures that are below-average. As seen in the NASA image below, this warming is a global phenomenon, not restricted to any one hemisphere or region.
What’s more, while this August turned out to be one of the warmest Augusts in history, the average January through August temperatures also happened to be notably warm.
This eight-month average proved to be the third-warmest span on record.
Only 2016 and 2017 were warmer.
Overall, there’s little doubt that 2018 will end up as one of the warmest years on record.
Physicist Robert Rohde, of the Berkeley Earth research organization, estimates it will be the fourth warmest year since 1850.
These warming trends have great implications for the globe. Planetary-wide systems are changing, including the jet stream — powerful winds miles above the surface that have been stalling over regions, trapping weather systems like hot masses of air for longer periods of time.
“The polar ice is melting, in the ocean the Gulf Stream System is weakening, and in the atmosphere the jet stream is getting weird,” said Rahmstorf.