Look at that temperature outlook. Lots of warm colors, yes, but that’s not all. There’s something extra significant about it.
If you haven’t been checking NOAA’s three month temperature outlook on the regular for the past twenty years, it’s easy to miss the historic nature of this one. So let me spell it out: for the next three months, above-average temperatures are favored everywhere across the United States. In archives going back to 1995, this has never happened before.
NOAA’s three month temperature outlook is often a source of confusion. It’s not saying America has a three month heat wave in store, nor is it saying there won’t be areas of the country that are unseasonably cool. It isn’t telling us how hot or cold things are expected to be. It’s simply giving the probability that different parts of the country will be warmer, or cooler, than the long-term average.
And for the next three months, things are looking toasty. That’s not too surprising, seeing how the oceans are still venting heat from the most powerful El Niño on record and the decades of global warming that preceded it. Every month this year has already broken its respective monthly temperature record, placing 2016 on track to be the hottest year in recorded history.
Whether or not the next three months wind up being abysmally hot, or mercifully average, this outlook signals a new normal for our climate state—hotter than the long-term average, until, of course, that long-term average gets melted away. What’s exceptional for now is going to start looking very familiar in the years to come.