Last month was second-hottest October on record, NOAA data shows

The new report builds on numerous similar reports about monthly global temperatures that show the planet’s climate has steadily warmed.
Image: An iceberg floats in a fjord near the town of Tasiilaq, Greenland
An iceberg floats in a fjord near the town of Tasiilaq, Greenland, June 18, 2018.Lucas Jackson / Reuters file

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By Denise Chow

Last month was Earth’s second-hottest October in recorded history, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The agency announced Monday that average global land and ocean surface temperatures in October were 1.76 degrees above the 20th century average. This was just 0.11 degrees shy of the record set in October 2015 — the highest since record keeping began in 1880.

“The last time we had a below-average temperature in October was in October 1976,” said Ahira Sánchez-Lugo, a climatologist at NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information and author of the agency’s newly released climate report. “We’ve been on an upward swing since then.”

The new report builds on numerous similar reports about monthly global temperatures that show the planet’s climate has steadily warmed, with the five hottest years on record all occurring in the past five years.

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Last month, average temperatures in Europe, Africa, Oceania (the region including Australia, New Zealand and many of the islands in the South Pacific), the Caribbean and the Hawaiian islands were among the three highest on record for the month of October. In the contiguous United States, however, last month was the coolest October since 2009, though the Southeast, the mid-Atlantic and the Ohio Valley regions registered warmer than normal conditions, according to NOAA.

NOAA added that 2019 is on track to become the second hottest year to date, with average global temperatures making this the second warmest January-through-October period in 140 years.

The warmer-than-usual temperatures shrank the Arctic sea ice to its lowest extent recorded in October, according to NOAA. Satellite records, which date back to 1979, show that Arctic sea ice coverage last month was 1.04 million square miles, or 32.2 percent below average.

Antarctic sea ice coverage fared better, but was still 1.38 percent below average, at 6.89 million square miles.

The agency added that the 10 warmest Octobers have occurred since 2003, with those since 2015 ranking among the five warmest Octobers on record.

NOAA’s latest climate report follows a worrying trend, with October registering as the 418th consecutive month with temperatures higher than the 20th century average.

“Since at least the 1970s or 1980s, the rate of temperature change has increased drastically,” Sanchez-Lugo said.

This follows a warmer-than-usual September, which NOAA said tied 2015 as the hottest September in recorded history. The planet also experienced a sizzling hot summer, with July ranking as the hottest month recorded.