Climate Change

August 2016 was the hottest August on record. These are the places seeing the biggest temperature spikes

An enormous iceberg (R) breaks off the Knox Coast in the Australian Antarctic Territory, January 11, 2008. Australia's CSIRO's atmospheric research unit has found the world is warming faster than predicted by the United Nations' top climate change body, with harmful emissions exceeding worst-case estimates. Picture taken January 11, 2008.

The first six months of 2016 were the hottest ever known. Image: REUTERS/Torsten Blackwood/Pool

Simon Torkington
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Climate Change

Soaring temperatures on land and sea have pushed Earth to its hottest period in recorded history. August 2016 was the warmest August on record, and was tied with July 2016 as the hottest month ever.

Data from NASA reveals August as the hottest August since record-keeping began 136 years ago.

NASA's figures, which combine sea-surface temperature and air temperature on land, also show August was the eleventh month in a row to break the monthly temperature record.

Image: NASA GISS/Gavin Schmidt

The first six months of 2016 were the hottest ever known and this map of global hotspots shows there is virtually nowhere to escape rising temperatures.

 Land & Ocean Temperature Percentiles Jan-June 2016
Image: NOAA

The map, published by the NOAA’s National Centers for Environment Information, details record temperature spikes across the globe. The deep red clusters show parts of Europe, Africa, Latin America and South-East Asia have all experienced all-time high temperatures between January and June 2016.

Even where records have not been broken, large parts of the Earth’s surface were much warmer than average in the first half of 2016.

Warming oceans pose greater risks

The map also shows that vast expanses of the Earth’s oceans are warmer than they have ever been. The warm waters that caused the 2016 El Niño weather phenomenon can be clearly seen in the north east Pacific. Almost all of the Indian Ocean is at a record high. The next cyclone season is likely to pack a greater punch as warmer waters create more intense storms.

Arctic sea ice is vanishing fast

In the far north, sea temperatures in the Arctic are also at, or close to, record highs. The Arctic sea ice is in full retreat. In June 2016 there was 260,000 sq km less ice than when the previous record low was set in June 2010. The long term average is even more striking with 1.3 million sq km of sea ice lost in the period between 1981 – 2010 according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center.

 Melting arctic sea ice
Image: NASA/Operation IceBridge

Images from a recent NASA flight over the shrinking Arctic icefields show a huge lake of meltwater, and NASA says this water may be causing the remaining ice beneath to melt even faster.

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Climate ChangeFuture of the Environment
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