Study: Earth on pace for hottest year on record

Study: Earth on pace for hottest year on record
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The Earth is on pace for its warmest year on record, which would surpass a figure set just last year. 

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO), a United Nations weather body, formally predicted a record-breaking 2016 in a Thursday report. The study tied the heat records to climate change, saying temperatures and low levels of Arctic sea ice are strong indicators of global warming. 

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On Tuesday, American researchers announced that last month set a new monthly temperature record for June. It was the 14th month in a row to set a high-temperature mark, with record keeping going back 136 years. 

“Another month, another record. And another. And another. Decades-long trends of climate change are reaching new climaxes, fueled by the strong … El Niño,” WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas said in a statement.

Researchers have long predicted 2016 could break the temperature mark, even as early as January, when they announced the 2015 record. The WMO’s report Thursday adds more fuel to that prediction. 

The average temperature globally for the first six months of the year was 1.89 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than the 20th century average and 0.36 degrees warmer than the record set last year, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reported this week. 

The WMO said Arctic sea ice levels, which have shrunk as global temperatures have increased, were “very close to the lowest ever for this date,” as of Wednesday. 

The records come as carbon dioxide levels hover above 400 parts per million, a symbolic figure that worries climate scientists. They also follow a strong El Niño, a weather pattern characterized by an overheated Pacific Ocean. But, scientists note, El Niño is over, and can no longer be blamed for the monthly temperature records.

“The El Niño event, which turned up the Earth’s thermostat, has now disappeared," Taalas said. "Climate change, caused by heat-trapping greenhouse gases, will not.”