(NBC) (09/15/20)— The Northern Hemisphere just sweltered through its hottest summer on record, according to data released Monday by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
The period from June through August was 2.11 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than average in the Northern Hemisphere, while globally, this August ranked as the second-hottest since record keeping began in 1880.
The worrying milestones come as historic wildfires and extreme weather events in the U.S. have sharpened focus on global warming and the catastrophic impacts of climate change.
August was particularly steamy for the planet. Average global land and ocean surface temperatures last month surpassed the 20th-century average of 60.1 degrees by 1.69 degrees.
This makes it the second-warmest August on record, trailing only August 2016, according to scientists at NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information.
Some regions, however, felt the August heat more acutely. Last month ranked as the hottest August on record in North America, while it was the third hottest in Europe and the fourth hottest for South America and Oceania.
One-third of the U.S. faced at least a moderate level of drought conditions in August, and California suffered through a record-setting heat wave last month, after temperatures in Death Valley hit a sizzling 130 degrees.
Southeastern China, parts of northern Russia and western Australia also experienced above-average temperatures last month, NOAA scientists wrote in their latest assessment.
The new figures suggest that the planet is continuing to warm at an accelerated pace. Globally, the five warmest Augusts have all occurred since 2015, and the 10 warmest Augusts on record have occurred since 1998, according to NOAA.
The above-average temperatures also shrank Arctic sea ice to its third-lowest level for August, agency scientists said. Satellite observations revealed that Arctic sea ice last month covered an average of 1.96 million square miles, which was more than 29 percent below average.
Antarctic sea ice, on the other hand, was close to normal for August, at 6.8 million square miles, the scientists said.
Though there are several months left in the year, 2020 is already shaping up to be one of the warmest on record. Scientists at the National Centers for Environmental Information predict that 2020 is “very likely” to rank among the five warmest years since NOAA began keeping such records 141 years ago.
Globally, the year to date already ranks as the second-hottest January-through-August time period, according to NOAA, with temperatures 1.85 degrees above the 20th-century average.
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