June 14th, 2012

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By Alex Kasdin

In 132 years of record keeping, May 2012 ranks second warmest, according to Thursday’s monthly report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). With global average surface temperatures of 59.79°F, it fell short of May 2010 — the  warmest May on record — by only 0.05°F. It was also the warmest monthly departure from normal since November, 2010.

 

Global temperatures were mostly above average this May, with only the blue regions dipping below the average. Credit: NOAA.

NOAA reported that much of the globe was impacted by warmer-than-average monthly temperatures. That included most of the U.S. and Canada, Europe, Asia, northern Africa and southern Greenland. The only regions that were cooler-than-average were Alaska, parts of the western U.S.-Canadian border and Australia.

This balmy May was not unusual. It’s part of a continuing trend of warmer-than-average Mays. The 20th-century average for May temperatures is 58.6°F, 1.19°F lower than the global average temperature for May 2012. Thermometers in May have climbed gradually above this 20th-century average every year since May 1976.

The warm May capped off a warm spring, the warmest spring on record in the U.S. That, too, has been part of a longer-term trend as the U.S. has had the hottest 12 months on record. Globally, the past 12 months have been well above average, but not record warm.

NOAA also said that El Niño conditions have a 1-in-2 chance of showing up before the end of the year, and El Niño tends to elevate global average temperatures. El Niño is the name given to the extensive warming that occurs in the Pacific Ocean about once every four years. It is typically followed by roughly a year and a half of a warmer globe since there is warmer water.

 

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