Our global temperature continued its upward trend last month with April 2019 marking the second warmest April ever recorded on this planet. Only April 2016 was warmer.
According to a report by NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information, Earth’s combined average temperature for the month – over both land and sea surfaces – was 58.37°F. That is 1.67°F above the 20th-century average. April was also the 412th consecutive month with a global temperature above its long-term norm. That means the last time any month posted a below average reading was December 1984.
While heat dominated most of the planet in April, some places were particularly warm, including parts of Greenland, Scandinavia, and Asia. These soaring temperatures are largely attributed to the long-term trend of human-caused climate change.
For many people in the contiguous US, especially in the northern and central parts of the country, this April was relatively cool. To put this disparity into context, consider that the United States constitutes less than 2% of the total surface of the Earth. This detail also highlights the fact that climate change is a complex global phenomenon that involves much more than the short-term weather conditions that are happening in any one part of the world.
Year to date, the first four months of 2019 were the third warmest such period of any year on record. Global temperature records date back to 1880.
April 2019 was Earth’s second warmest April on record. Credit: NOAA
Art and science are coming together at the Broto Conference in Provincetown, MA this weekend, May 17-18. Known for brainstorming ideas and fostering collaborations across these seeming divergent fields of study, the focus of this year’s conference is climate change.
Named after the Portuguese word for “sprout”, this two-day event will include speakers, panels, and even a comedy show. I am thrilled to be part of the “Globalizing Art and Science” panel, where we will be discussing how art can help to scale up the global conversation on climate change.
For more information on the event, including a full list of speakers, please visit the Broto website.
Image Credit: Broto
A late season nor’easter soaked the northeastern United States on Monday. Heavy rain triggered flood alerts and advisories from Virginia to Connecticut, and areas further north reported snow.
Here in New York City, 0.70 inches of rain fell in Central Park. This came on the heels of the 1.32 inches that fell the day before when a separate storm system moved through the area. To date this May, the city has received 3.70 inches of rain and it is only the middle of the month. May, on average, brings the city a total of 4.19 inches of rain.
The storm also ushered in unseasonably cool temperatures, making it feel more like March than May. The high in NYC only made it to 48°F on Monday, setting a new record for the coldest high temperature for the date. The old record of 49°F was set in 1914. The normal high for this time of year is 70°F.
This storm was the result of a deep dip in the jet stream that moved over the region, which, in turn, helped generate an area of low pressure off the coast. Producing gusty northeasterly winds, it was categorized as a nor’easter. While this type of storm is more common during the fall and winter months, they can develop any time of the year.
A late spring nor’easter soaked the northeastern US. Credit: weather.com
Spring is a transitional season. It is a time when the chill of winter fades away and the warmth of summer gradually returns. But, as our climate changes, the season is heating up.
Across the contiguous United States, spring temperatures have increased an average of more than 2°F over the past fifty years, according to Climate Central. The southwest part of the country has seen the fastest seasonal increase, with Las Vegas, NV and Tucson, AZ warming more than 6°F since 1970.
Warming temperatures mean more frost-free days. While this may lengthen the growing season for some crops, it also extends the allergy season and allows pests like mosquitos and ticks to live and thrive longer.
Looking ahead, if greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise, scientists say spring could arrive at least two weeks earlier by 2050 compared to recent years.
Our planet’s atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2) has broken yet another record. April’s average reading of 413.52 parts per million (ppm) set a new record high, according to Scripps’ Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii. This marks yet another high point on the definitively upward trend of the Keeling Curve, a well-known climate change indicator.
To put this rapidly increasing number into perspective, consider that when the observatory was first established in 1958, the CO2 level was 315 ppm, slightly higher than the pre-industrial level of 280 ppm. Going back even further, ice-core research shows that today’s level of atmospheric CO2 is unprecedented in the last 800,000 years.
CO2 is one of the most prevalent greenhouse gases in the atmosphere due to human activities such as the burning of fossil fuels and deforestation. While it is a vital part of our atmosphere’s mix of gases and helps keep the planet from freezing, too much of it causes problems. Simply put, more greenhouse gases in the atmosphere trap more heat and increase the planet’s average temperature.
Since the pre-industrial era, according to the IPCC, Earth’s mean temperature has increased 1°C (1.8°F). As temperatures rise, long established weather patterns are shifting. Some areas are getting wetter, while others are getting dryer, and coastal communities are feeling the impacts of rising sea levels.
This new CO2 milestone, therefore, is not good news. The IPCC’s Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C released this past autumn clearly states that the impacts of climate change will be greater at a lower degree of warming than previously thought. To avoid the worst of these various impacts, the report says greenhouse gas pollution must be reduced by 45% from 2010 levels by 2030, and slashed to net zero by 2050.
This type of reduction will require massive action and enormous political will.
April 2019 was unusually warm in New York City. It produced 18 days with above average readings, including one day where the temperature reached a summer-like 80°F. Overnight lows were also mostly warmer than normal. In fact, on April 14, the mercury only fell to 60°F, setting a new record warm low temperature for the date. In the end, the city’s mean temperature for the month was 55.5°F, which is 2.5°F above average. That means April 2019 is now tied with April 1985 as the city’s eighth warmest April on record. The city saw its warmest April in 2010, when the average temperature for the month was 57.9°F.
This April was also above average in terms of precipitation, with 18 out of 30 days producing measurable rainfall. In all, 4.55 inches of rain was measured in Central Park. Of that total, 1.03 inches fell on a single day. The city, on average, gets 4.50 inches of rain for the entire month.
April 2019 was NYC’s 8th warmest April on record. Credit: The Weather Gamut