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April was Earth’s 400th warmer-than-normal month in a row

The Washington Post logo The Washington Post 5/19/2018 Angela Fritz
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Do you remember February 1985? Perhaps you were rocking out to Wham! and Foreigner while teasing your bangs. Or maybe you hadn’t even been born. Either way, it was a significant month for the planet — the last one that was cooler than normal, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

In every single month after February 1985, the average global temperature has been warmer than normal — 400 months in a row. Anyone born after that month has never experienced a “cool” month for Earth, let alone a normal one.

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It’s certainly a milestone for the planet, but it’s not surprising and it’s nothing new.

“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,” NOAA climate scientist Deke Arndt told USA Today. “Speeding by a ‘400’ sign only underscores that, but it does not prove anything new.”

The average global temperature was about 1.5 degrees warmer than normal in the month of April, which may come as a surprise to anyone living in the United States, where it was the 13th coolest. While the rest of the globe simmered, the Upper Midwest set cold records. Iowa and Wisconsin had their all-time coldest April, while temperatures in surrounding states in the Central and Northeast United States were well below average. From Minnesota to Mississippi, nine states had their coldest April overnight lows.

Meanwhile, it was the warmest April on record in Europe and the second-warmest in Australia, according to an analysis by the European Center for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts. The Arctic also was substantially warmer than normal, the center said.

On April 30, Nawabshah, Pakistan, soared to 122.4 degrees in what was a largely average weather pattern for late April. No major heat domes, no dramatic high-pressure systems — just spring in Pakistan. It was the warmest temperature observed in the month of April in all of Pakistan, and might have been the warmest April temperature on the planet.

Overall, last month was the third-warmest April for the globe, dating to 1880. Only April 2016 and 2017 were warmer — which means the past three years have produced the three warmest Aprils. Nine of the 10 warmest Aprils have occurred since 2005, NOAA says.

Fossil fuel emissions have caused Earth’s temperature to warm almost 3 degrees since the Industrial Revolution. It seems small, but it’s significant. The Paris climate agreement said 3.6 degrees is the point at which Earth’s climate may become truly inhospitable for current life — with heat waves, drought, sea-level rise and catastrophic flooding as the main impacts.

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