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This Was the Warmest August in Known History

Much of this worrisome heat is coming from the oceans.


For those who thought their brows were extra sweaty last month, it was no illusion: The world just experienced the warmest August since bookkeeping started in 1880.

The temperatures for sea and land surfaces averaged 61.5 degrees Fahrenheit, 1.4 degrees above the historical monthly average, according to NOAA's National Climatic Data Center. For those keeping score, this means that nine of the warmest-known Augusts have now occurred in the new millennium. This was also the 38th August in a row with global temperatures exceeding the 20th-century average. (Ah, for the cool, refreshing weather of 1976!)

Much of this record-shattering heat wafted off of the oceans, which are getting more bathwatery every day. NOAA explains:

For the ocean, the August global sea surface temperature was 0.65°C (1.17°F) above the 20th-century average of 16.4°C (61.4°F). This record high departure from average not only beats the previous August record set in 2005 by 0.08°C (0.14°F), but also beats the previous all-time record set just two months ago in June 2014 by 0.03°C (0.05°F).

The above map shows where on the planet it was abnormally hot (in red) and cool (blue). Because they are so few, it's easier just to say where it wasn't weirdly torrid: western Europe, some of the United States, northern Siberia, the middle of Australia, eastern Asia, and (where data were available) parts of Antarctica. Meanwhile, the gathering heat on the planet was reflected in shrinking Arctic sea ice and expanding Antarctic ice, the latter probably a symptom of warm weather causing the mass break-up of glaciers and shelves.

This NCDC wrap-up will give you an idea of some of the other climate stuff that went down in August:


About the Author

  • John Metcalfe
    John Metcalfe is CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, based in Oakland. His coverage focuses on climate change and the science of cities.