A stark tally of the heat records that fell in 2019
Global Warming

A stark tally of the heat records that fell in 2019

Some 26,000 weather stations around the planet constantly feed the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) data on land temperatures.

And separately, a fleet of ships, buoys, floats, and marine rigs take readings of the globe’s sprawling oceans. 

Taken together, the agency has a firm understanding of the global climate. It’s warming

2019 is a case in point. For example, so far this year (as of Dec. 16) there have been 42,487 daily high temperature records set around the world, versus 25,027 low records. Meanwhile, 364 all-time high temperatures were set in 2019, versus just 70 all-time lows. This makes sense.

“As the climate changes into a warmer climate we do expect to see more extreme warm temperatures,” said Ahira Sánchez-Lugo, a NOAA climatologist. “That’s what we’re seeing, and that’s what the data are showing.”

(Yes, the eastern half of the Lower 48 States experienced a cooler-than-average fall; there were 51 September-November spans that were warmer. But it’s much more important to look beyond our backyards at the big, planetary picture).

A slew of high temperature records were broken in 2019, which will likely go down as the second-warmest year on record. Here they are.

June, July, and September were the hottest ever recorded

In 139 years of reliable record-keeping, 2019’s June, July, and September took the cake for the hottest such months on record.

That also means July, which is typically the warmest month of the year globally, was the warmest month ever recorded.

“With all the record heat waves around the globe this summer, it’s not surprising that July 2019 has turned out to be the warmest July globally on record,” Jon Overpeck, a climate scientist at the University of Michigan, told Mashable after NOAA’s data came in. “Very few countries avoided warmer or much warmer than normal temperatures, and record warmth impacted a surprising number of regions.”

Temperature anomalies in July 2019. Reds are warmer than average.

Temperature anomalies in July 2019. Reds are warmer than average.

Image: noaa

Though, it wasn’t just summer that was warm. The first half of 2019, January through June, finished up as the second warmest half-year on record. What’s more, each of the last five January through Junes are now the five warmest such spans on record. Only 2016 started off hotter than 2019.

Meanwhile, September 2019 tied September 2015 for the hottest September on record. 

Second place finishers

Many months in 2019 weren’t the hottest on record. But they were darn close. These months came in second, or tied for second, according to NOAA. They are:

November temperature trends since the 1880s.

November temperature trends since the 1880s.

Image: noaa

Europe got scorched

Summer, of course, is heat wave season. But with added warming, today’s heat waves are toppling — and sometimes smashing — all-time temperature records 

“It’s just warmer than it would have been 50 years ago — this is quite logical,” Mika Rantanen, a meteorologist and Ph.D student at the Institute for Atmospheric and Earth System Research in Finland, told Mashable during Europe’s sizzling July heat wave.

  • Paris hit 108.7 degrees Fahrenheit (42.6 C) in July, trouncing the previous record (40.4 C) set over 70 years ago. It’s not easy to break a temperature record in Paris. There, records go back to 1658, when Louis the Great reigned over the nation.

  • Netherlands broke its temperature record, with temperatures reaching 107 F (41.7 C).

  • Germany set a new record of 106.7 F (41.5 C).

  • Belgium’s national heat record fell when temperatures reached 103.8 F (39.9 C).

The world scorched

Don’t forget about the oceans

It might be easy for us land-dwelling Homo sapiens to forget that we inhabit an ocean-dominated planet.  But like the atmosphere, the ocean is warming relentlessly, too. That’s because water is much more absorbent than the hard, rocky earth. So over 90 percent of human-caused warming gets soaked up by the seas.

Global warming is really ocean warming,” emphasized NASA oceanographer Josh Willis.

As the planet warms, the ocean’s total heat content increases. This heating trend, expectedly, continued in 2019. Warmer oceans also mean ever-hotter marine heat waves

Rising global ocean heat content.

Rising global ocean heat content.

Image: noaa

Profound agreement

Much, but not all, of the climate information above came from NOAA’s data and analysis. 

This NOAA analysis is right in line with temperature observations taken from other major environmental research agencies, namely NASA, the Japanese Meteorological Agency, the UK Met Office, and Berkeley Earth.

“A world of agreement.”

Image: nasa

“They all come up with the same results,” explained NOAA’s Sánchez-Lugo.

“Think of us as the globe doctors,” Sánchez-Lugo said, noting that in this case all five doctors’ opinions agree. “We’re constantly taking Earth’s vitals,” she said.

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