It Really Is Getting Hot in Here

Unless you’re almost 100, you’ve never experienced a coldest month on record. But historic heat? Been a lot of that lately.

November 17, 2014

Last month was the hottest October on record, according to data from NASA and the Japanese Meteorological Agency. That's going back to at least 1880, when global record-keeping began. May, June, August, and September were all record breakers, too.

And despite the chilly temperatures across much of North America this week, NASA says 2014 is on track to be the hottest year on record, as well.

It's becoming a pretty common announcement. Thanks to climate change, the earth has now notched 356 months of above-average temperatures, and the oldest hottest month on record is just 16 years old. Records are made to be broken, I guess. 

Except the ones that aren’t. Sports fans like to debate whether Joe Dimaggio’s 56-game hitting streak (1941), Wilt Chamberlain’s 100-point game (1962), and Rocky Marciano’s string of 49 unbeaten boxing matches (1956) are unbreakable. To a climatologist, those records are mere young’uns.

Here’s what could be a truly unbreakable record, thanks to climate change baking the planet: Coldest. Month. Ever.

No one under the age of 98 (or 97 and three-quarters, to be exact) can remember the last time the globe experienced one of those (it was December 1916). Woodrow Wilson was president. Nelson Mandela had not been born. Canada was still part of Great Britain (yes, really).

So this Thanksgiving, when your tipsy Uncle Jim tries to tell you that climate change is a hoax, maybe show him this timeline of temperature records. Then ask him to pass the gravy—before it boils.

onEarth provides reporting and analysis about environmental science, policy, and culture. All opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the policies or positions of NRDC. Learn more or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

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