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.

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.

This article was originally published on onEarth, which is no longer in publication. onEarth was founded in 1979 as the Amicus Journal, an independent magazine of thought and opinion on the environment. All opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the policies or positions of NRDC. This article is available for online republication by news media outlets or nonprofits under these conditions: The writer(s) must be credited with a byline; you must note prominently that the article was originally published by and link to the original; the article cannot be edited (beyond simple things such grammar); you can’t resell the article in any form or grant republishing rights to other outlets; you can’t republish our material wholesale or automatically—you need to select articles individually; you can’t republish the photos or graphics on our site without specific permission; you should drop us a note to let us know when you’ve used one of our articles.

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