April may have brought mild temperatures to much of North America, but that wasn’t the case for the planet as a whole. Last month officially tied for the warmest April globally since recordkeeping began in 1880, according to data released by NOAA’s National Climactic Data Center on Tuesday.
This makes it the 38th consecutive April and 350th consecutive month with a global temperature at or above the 20th century average. The last time the planet experienced an April with below-average temperatures was 1976.
Last month’s record-tying global temperatures tracked with the global carbon dioxide emissions that drive climate change, as April became the first month in at least 800,000 years in which CO2 levels were above 400 parts per million (ppm) every day.
Earlier this month, NASA ranked April 2014 as the second-warmest on record. The two agencies use the same data but analyze them differently, which occasionally results in minor discrepancies in their rankings.
Although the contiguous U.S. experienced only its 46th warmest April on record, parts of Siberia, for instance, were more than 9 degrees Fahrenheit above the 1981–2010 average. “This contrast is an example of how a globally-averaged temperature can differ from a single smaller region,” NOAA explained in its press release.
This April tied with 2010’s record global temperatures, but there is one notable difference: neither El Niño nor La Niña conditions were present across the central and eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean this year. However, “according to NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, the chance of El Niño increases for the rest of the year, exceeding 65 percent during the Northern Hemisphere summer 2014.”
Both El Niño and La Niña tend to drive extreme weather worldwide, Climate Progress’ Joe Romm explained last month; the difference being El Niño is characterized by unusually warm ocean temperatures for several months in the Equatorial Pacific, while La Niña has cooler than normal temperatures.
And because El Niños tend to coincide with the hottest years, there could be even bigger heat records broken soon. “If it starts relatively quickly, then 2014 could well be the hottest year on record, but if it is a strong El Niño, as many currently expect, then 2015 would likely break all previous global records,” Romm writes.
The landmark National Climate Assessment, released earlier this month and detailing the current and future impacts of climate change on the U.S., was clear that hotter temperatures and increasingly severe weather are on the horizon. Temperatures across the country have already risen 1.3 to 1.9 degrees Farenheit since 1895 — with most of this increase occurring since 1970 — and the effects are clearly being felt.
But the report’s authors emphasized that those changes are just the beginning. “Temperatures are projected to rise another 2°F to 4°F in most areas of the United States over the next few decades,” according to the report, and up to 10 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the century if serious reductions in our emissions are not made.