Warmest May and Warmest Spring on Record for Planet Earth

Our global temperature continued its upward trend last month with May 2016 marking the warmest May ever recorded on this planet.

According to the State of the Climate report by NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information, Earth’s combined average temperature for the month – over both land and sea surfaces – was 60.17°F. That is 1.57°F above the 20th century average and 0.04°F above the previous record that was set in 2015. Moreover, May marked the 13th consecutive month to break a global temperature record – the longest such streak on NOAA’s books.

The three-month period of March, April, and May – known as meteorological spring in the northern hemisphere – was also a record breaker. NOAA reports that Earth’s average temperature for the season was 1.91°F above the 20th century average of 56.7°F.  That is 0.40°F above the previous record that was set just last year.

While heat dominated most of the planet this spring, some places were particularly warm, including large parts of North America. Here in the US, Alaska marked its warmest spring ever recorded while Washington and Oregon posted their second and third warmest, respectively.

These soaring temperatures, scientists say, were fueled by a combination of El Niño, which has now dissipated, and the long-term trend of human-caused climate change. Research by Climate Central’s World Weather Attribution Program shows that while El Niño gives global temperatures a boost, the majority of the temperature increase is due to rising levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. It should also be noted that no other strong El Niño event has produced temperature anomalies as large as the ones seen recently.

Year to date, the first five months of 2016 were the warmest such period on record. This strengthens the likelihood that 2016 will surpass 2015 as the Earth’s warmest year ever recorded. Global temperature records date back to 1880.


May 2016 was the warmest May on record, globally. Image credit: NOAA

2016 is on track to being the next warmest year on record. Image credit: NOAA

2016 is well on track to being the next warmest year on record. Image credit: NOAA