Image: World map showing temperature anomalies
These globes show surface temperature anomalies for August. Temperature is compared to the average global temperature for Augusts from 1961-1990.
updated 9/18/2009 4:27:15 PM ET 2009-09-18T20:27:15

Sea-surface temperatures worldwide have been the hottest on record over the last three months, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Ocean temperatures averaged 62.5 degrees Fahrenheit in the June-August period, 1 degree higher than normal.

Last month also saw the warmest August sea-surface temperatures  on record at an average of 62.4 degrees, also 1 degree higher than usual, NOAA's National Climatic Data Center said.

The combined land and water temperature worldwide for June-August was 61.2 degrees, third warmest in 129 years of recordkeeping. For August it was 58.2 degrees, fourth warmest.

"Large portions of the world’s land mass observed warmer-than-average temperatures in August," NOAA said in a statement. "The warmest departures occurred across Australia, Europe, parts of the Middle East, northwestern Africa, and southern South America. Both Australia and New Zealand had their warmest August since their records began."

Meteorologists said there's a combination of forces at work: A natural El Nino system just getting started on top of worsening man-made carbon emissions tied to global warming, and a dash of random weather variations.

The resulting ocean heat is already harming threatened coral reefs. It could also hasten the melting of Arctic sea ice and help hurricanes strengthen.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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