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No, You Weren't Imagining It: 2016 Was Very, Very Hot

05/01/2017 8:16 PM IST | Updated 05/01/2017 10:26 PM IST
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As temperatures soared to 100 degrees Fahrenheit during the Paris heat wave in August 2016, children cooled off in a fountain in Parc Andre Citroen.

“Record heat forecast on Christmas Day.” “New record Halloween temperature.” “Record-breaking fall heat wave.” “Earth’s hot streak continues.” A cursory scan of some of last year’s headlines reveals a trend: 2016 was scorching.

In November, the U.N.’s World Meteorological Organization reported that 2016, fueled by climate change and the effects of a strong El Niño, would almost certainly be the warmest year on record ― making it the third straight year of record-breaking heat.

Thierry Orban/Getty Images
As temperatures soared to 100 degrees Fahrenheit during the Paris heat wave in August 2016, children cooled off in a fountain in Parc Andre Citroen.

 

The ignominious title should come as no surprise. From January to December, 2016 was marked by record-breaking high temperatures worldwide. Countries like Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Botswana, India, Niger and Iraq experienced their hottest temperatures ever recorded. And heat waves, many of them deadly, charred parts of Britain, France, South Africathe U.S. and regions like Southeast Asia.

The poles were not spared from the heat. In November, for instance, sea ice extent in the Arctic and Antarctic reached record lows. Scientists called it an “almost unprecedented” event at the time.

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Last summer, the India Meteorological Department recorded the country's hottest temperature ever: 51 degrees Celsius (or 123.8 degrees Fahrenheit) in the city of Phalodi, Rajasthan, on May 19.
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Hundreds of homes were destroyed and thousands of people were evacuated as a result of California's deadly wildfires last year. Climate change has been linked to an increase in forest fires in the western U.S. in recent years.
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A woman shades herself from the sun in Washington D.C. during a heat wave that scorched parts of the northeastern United States in August 2016.

In the U.S., high temperatures were a feature throughout the year. Every month in 2016 had significantly more record high temperatures than record lows, according to a Climate Central report this week. 

“The blistering pace of record-high temperatures across the country is the clearest sign of 2016’s extreme heat. Record-daily highs outpaced record-daily lows by 5.7-to-1 in 2016,” the nonprofit news organization wrote, citing preliminary data from the National Centers for Environmental Information. “That’s the largest ratio in 95 years of record keeping. Put another way, 85 percent of extreme temperature records set in 2016 were of the hot variety.

Last year was likely the second-hottest year on record for the U.S. (2012 is the hottest). A staggering 98 percent of weather stations across the country recorded a warmer-than-normal year, Climate Central said in December. 

2016 will likely rank as a top 10 warmest year in every state. 

The World Meteorological Organization warned in its report last year that climate change is not just spurring global temperature spikes but also fueling extreme weather events and climate disasters

“Because of climate change, the occurrence and impact of extreme events has risen,” WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas said in a statement. “‘Once in a generation’ heatwaves and flooding are becoming more regular.”

The WMO said human-induced global warming had contributed to more than half of all extreme weather events studied in recent years, while the probability of extreme heat had increased 10 times or more in some cases. 

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