The Inertia for Good Editor

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The Inertia

“Hottest ever” was a big buzzword in headlines around the world through all of 2023. It felt like every time we flipped a new calendar page there was a new “hottest ever” month being declared. Last July, to be exact, was the hottest month in 120,000 years. Scientists came up with that number because they believe it was the last time our planet was that warm — a month that saw 23 consecutive days of record global temperatures. The rest of the year saw more hottest-ever titles fueled by the pairing of El Niño and a changing global climate and viola, we had ourselves the hottest year on record.

We are almost halfway through 2024 now and scientists at NOAA are already saying there is a 100 percent chance this year will go down as one of the five hottest ever recorded. They are giving coin flip odds that 2024 will top them all when it’s said and done. A statement like this by NOAA before the midway point is noteworthy for an institution that regularly hedges its bets with changing odds on forecasts.

NOAA did make a similar declaration as the northern hemisphere summer was winding down in 2023, giving a 99 percent chance it’d turn into “one of the five hottest years on record.” Still, that one percent margin for error makes a world of difference and now they’re calling the shot more than two months ahead of schedule. One factor driving that now may be the recently-wrapped up El Niño. When officials made their 2023 declaration that we’d experience one of the hottest years on record (and gave those same 50/50 odds of the hottest year on record), the impending El Niño was already expected to impact this year long after it was gone. Gavin Schmidt, director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, warned that “the biggest impact of El Niño will actually occur in 2024.”

“The year-to-date (January–May) global surface temperature was 2.38°F (1.32°C) above the 20th-century average, making it the warmest such period on record,” NOAA reported earlier this month.


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