The last time global temperatures were cooler than historical averages, Van Halen was still arguably the hottest rock group in the world, even as lead singer David Lee Roth was on his way out of the band. Ronald Reagan was preparing to begin his second term as president of the United States. And neither the Golden State Warriors nor Cleveland Cavaliers were close to contending for the NBA Finals, like they’ve been for most of the current decade. That was how things were in December 1984, and last month marked the 400th straight month in which world temperatures were higher than the 20th century average, as confirmed on Thursday by scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Although temperatures in the United States were cooler than usual, with Upper Midwest states such as Iowa and Wisconsin reporting their coldest months of April in recorded history, the rest of the world generally became warmer, as average global temperatures were about 1.5 degrees hotter than average, according to a report from the Washington Post. Based on data from the European Center for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts, last month was the warmest April on record in all of Europe. Last month likewise proved to be the hottest April in Argentina since 1961, and the second-hottest in Australia. Elsewhere, there were no heat waves or similar events causing temperatures to go beyond 122 degrees Fahrenheit in Pakistan, yet the country also likely experienced its warmest April ever, the Post added.
Overall, NOAA’s data indicates that last month was the third-warmest April since 1880, ranking right behind April 2016 and 2017. As observed by the Washington Post, the three most recently concluded Aprils are the three warmest in recorded history.
Speaking to USA Today, NOAA climate scientist Deke Arndt explained why the streak is at 400 months and counting — Earth is getting progressively warmer, as the burning of fossil fuels continues and carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere continue to trend upwards.
“We live in and share a world that is unequivocally, appreciably and consequentially warmer than just a few decades ago, and our world continues to warm. Speeding by a ‘400’ sign only underscores that, but it does not prove anything new.”
At the moment, global temperatures have risen by close to three degrees Fahrenheit since the start of the Industrial Revolution. The Washington Post pointed out that this is close to the 3.6 degree threshold agreed upon at the Paris climate accord of 2015 as the point where temperatures may become “inhospitable” for life as we know it, as fossil fuel burning contributes to global warming and dramatic weather events such as droughts and heat waves become more commonplace as a consequence of such warming.