According to a new report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, average ocean temperatures once again hit a new high. With El Niño imminent, this is a bad sign for what the climate crisis has in store for the planet for 2023 and 2024.
NOAA revealed multiple surprises about how intense the climate crisis has become as part of as part of its regular global climate update released last week.
Among the data released in this month’s summary were the following:
Overall, May 2023 was the third-hottest May since NOAA began recording temperatures 174 years ago. Data showed the mean temperature was 1.75°F (0.97°C) above the 20th-century average of 58.6°F (14.8°C).
This May was also the 47th consecutive May and the 531st month in a row with temperatures above the 20th century average.
Map showing surface temperatures on the land and sea as of May 2023. Image: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Ocean temperatures across the globe also soared to their highest values in history for May, after already having broken records in April.
Global surface temperatures from January to date were the fourth warmest in history. With that track record and other information NOAA has compiled, the agency says there is a 89% chance this will rank among the five hottest years ever.
The March-May period this year was the third warmest NOAA has ever recorded.
Regionally, South America experienced its second warmest March-May period this year. Temperatures were 2.39°F (1.33°C) above average for those three months.
In Africa, it was the third warmest on record for the same period.
White regions show how much total sea ice had receded in the Arctic and Antarctic by May 2023. In Antarctica, the amount of sea ice left this time of year was the lowest ever measured. Image: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Such intense heat in the oceans and in air temperatures overall also helped cause so much global melting of the cryosphere that sea ice levels were the second lowest on record last month. The only time ice levels were smaller was in May 2019, just four years ago.
Coupled with the sea ice reveal was that as May snow cover in the Northern Hemisphere was far lower than usual, some 570,000 square miles less than the average for the period from 1991-2020. This was the lowest net snowfall ever recorded in North America for the month. It was also the eighth lowest total snowfall for the entire Northern Hemisphere. On a positive sign, snowfall was near normal for much of Eurasia last month and was way above normal for parts of the U.S. Rockies.
As for rainfall, most of the northwestern and northeastern United States, southern South America, northern and eastern Europe, western and central Russia, southeast Asia, and Australia had far less than normal precipitation. As that grows more severe during the summer, drought conditions equal to or worse than what was experienced last year at this time are expected.
As a short summation, 2023 is just getting started and yet by May the world has already experienced some of hottest land temperatures ever; record-setting oceanic warmth which is setting up for a powerful cyclone and hurricane season, even if the number of storms might be lower; lower-than-average snowfall and rainfall in many locations; and near record low levels of sea ice.
Although more could be said about what is yet to come, the message from the planet is that it is likley to be a long, dry, hot summer, with drought, super-storms, and wildfires at record levels.