The Planet Just Had Its Warmest May On Record


A map showing the blended land and sea surface temperature percentiles in May 2014. Hot spots in red over both land and ocean.

Last month broke a temperature record, averaging 59.93 degrees Fahrenheit — a degree and a third (1.33°F) above the 20th century baseline, according to new data released Monday by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. May 2014 was the 39th consecutive May that was warmer than average. This was also the 351st consecutive month where the global temperature was hotter than the 20th century average, meaning if you are 29 years old, you have never experienced a colder-than-average month in your life.

Since New Year’s Day, even as the U.S. shivered through the polar vortex, the planet as a whole experienced its fifth-warmest January-through-May on record — 1.19°F above the 20th century average. The last “hottest May” record was set in 2010. 2012 was the third-warmest, 1998 the fourth, and 2013 the fifth-warmest on record.

Where was it the warmest? Mostly over the oceans. The planet’s seas broke the high temperature record last set in the El Niño year of 1998 — coming in for a 1.06°F global monthly-averaged sea surface temperature.

The ocean temperature rise is important, as a study last year suggested that 30 to 40 percent of the heat trapped over the last decade or so has moved into the deep ocean. As those depths warm up, it gets harder for that deep warmth to be concealed — and now measurements are showing the surface water is warmer than ever.

The land in the Southern Hemisphere was also warmer than it’s ever been measured, at 0.31°F above average. South Australia broke last year’s record high temperature for May at 4.81°F above average. South Korea had its hottest May on record, and Alaska posted its 6th-hottest.

This data confirms the analysis of the Japan Meteorological Agency, while initial analysis from NASA found the same, pending additional data from China.

The United Kingdom had its third-warmest spring, Denmark tied for its second-warmest, South Korea had its second-warmest, while Latvia and Norway had their warmest springs on record. Though America’s Midwest saw record cold, NOAA said the planet experienced record warmth in:

…the western North and South Atlantic Ocean, sections of the northeastern and equatorial Pacific, areas of the Norwegian and Barents Seas, the ocean waters south of Africa, far western Alaska and parts of Far East Russia, part of the western United States, southern Mexico, and central to eastern Australia.

Despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary, some politicians and coal CEOs have continued to argue that the earth has been cooling for 17 years. However, it’s easy to see the historical warming trend in NOAA’s graph of surface temperature anomalies:

The reality of the inexorable warming trend facing the human race doesn't get much clearer than what you see in this graph.

The reality of the inexorable warming trend facing the human race doesn’t get much clearer than what you see in this graph.


Not only was the month of May the warmest ever measured across the face of the globe, but some areas faced extremes in precipitation. Parts of Austria and Norway received record amounts of rainfall, while the northern and eastern areas of South America and Australia suffered extreme dryness.

2014 is not yet an El Nino year, but scientists have been looking at Pacific Ocean currents and are predicting one to start by the end of the year, which would make it even more likely that 2014 will be the hottest year ever recorded.