NASA has released its global temperature data for January 2016, and, once again, the record for the hottest month in recorded history has been shattered. At a time when these kinds of records are broken with some regularity, it takes a particularly scorching month to raise eyebrows in the climate science community. It has to be the hottest hottest month by a pretty hot margin.
Sure enough, last January did the trick: It was 1.13˚ C warmer than the global average of 1951-1980 (the benchmark NASA uses to measure warming trends)—in other words, a full 2˚F warmer than pre-1980 levels.
In fact, January 2016 was a full 0.3˚ C hotter than January 2015. That, as Stefan Rahmstorf, a professor of physics at Potsdam University, points out, makes for not only the hottest January, but the "biggest increase over previous record and hottest anomaly for any month ever."
Regional heat anomalies appear most acute in parts of Asia, particularly, it appears, the Caucasuses, and the Arctic—Canada, Russia, and Alaska were abnormally hot—and parts of the North Pole hit close to 32˚F and risked thawing in early January. "For the Arctic this is definitely the strangest winter I've ever seen," Mark Serreze, the director of the National Snow and Ice Data Center, told climate reporter Andrew Freedman.
Plenty of other regions were far hotter than average, too, however—southern Europe and Saharan Africa were scorched, as were the northwestern nations in South America.
NASA isn't alone in declaring January the hottest yet by a remarkable factor, either. Even two of the nation's most notorious climate change skeptics, John Christy and Roy Spencer at the University of Alabama, declared January 2016 "the warmest first month of the year since satellite data began to be reported in 1978," according to Reason, which reported on the duo's satellite findings. "January's global average temperature was +0.54 degrees Celsius above the 30-year average (1981-2010) for the month reported."
So, last month was an especially hot one during what is by far the hottest period in recent human history.
2015 was the hottest year ever recorded by a large margin. 2015 was alarmingly hot, but 2016 may already be on track to surpass it.