El Niño effect: Global temperatures hit record high for 8th month in a row

© Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, NASA Johnson Space Center.
Last month was the hottest May on file making it the eighth consecutive month to smash world temperature records.

The global temperature for May was 1.67 °F (0.93 °C) warmer than the May base period (from 1951 to 1980), according to data compiled by NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS).

This follows a warmer than usual April, which was 1.96 °F (1.09 °C) hotter than mean temperatures from 1951 to 1980.

Global temperature records have now been broken for eight straight months since the pattern began in October 2015. The world is on track to call 2016 its hottest year yet.

Climate scientist and director of GISS, Gavin Schmidt says there is a greater than 99 percent probability that 2016 will break all previous heat records.

The string of record-breaking months is a consequence of El Niño - a natural phenomenon that occurs every two to seven years through unusually warm water in the Pacific Ocean.

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The most recent El Niño event took place in the eastern tropical Pacific from late 2015 to early 2016 and was considered “very strong.”

The weather event brought excessive rains and exacerbated drought in the Horn of Africa and in Southern Africa, sparking increased food insecurity according to the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. It also prompted the spread of disease, including cholera.

© Feisal Omar

Australia's Bureau of Meteorology declared El Niño finished on May 24. However, the effects of the event drag on throughout the year because of a lag in the global response to tropical disturbances, according to Schmidt.

NASA expects the current trend to subside shortly though and says it’s unlikely that the next few months will be ‘chart-toppers’.

Climate change has been raising the planet’s temperature and GISS scientist Reto Ruedy estimates that global warming will catch up with the El Niño 2015 spike in less than 15 years.

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