Global temperatures are at record levels and this does not bode well for weather in 2016.
Last month was the warmest March in recorded history, according to the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
The National Centres for Environmental Information has confirmed that the temperature in the month was 1.22C above the 20th-century average.
It was also a remarkable 0.32C above the previous record, set as recently as 2010.
It should be emphasised that this is an enormous margin by which to break the previous record – most are no more than a hundredth or two of a degree above the previous one.
The past six months have all set records as the warmest on record.
The previous 10 months set average temperature records for their respective months, the longest such run in 137 years of record keeping.
In the northern hemisphere, the warming has taken its toll on ice coverage. Earlier this month Greenland’s ice cover was reported as being 12 percent covered by meltwater, the earliest the extent has exceeded 10 percent.
Similarly, Arctic sea ice was reported to be at its second lowest March extent since records began in 1979.
The first three months of 2016 were 1.15C warmer than normal, and 0.28C above the previous record set just last year.
“It’s becoming monotonous in a way,” said meteorology professor Jason Furtado, of Oklahoma University. “It’s absolutely disturbing. We are losing critical elements of our climate system.”
The “monotonous” part of his comment is borne out by the fact that this is, according to NASA, the 37th monthly heat record broken since the new millennium. (It is now almost 100 years since the last global cold record was broken.)
While the main contributor to these records is the increasing amount of human-produced greenhouse gases being poured into the atmosphere, there is a natural contribution from El Nino.
This warming of the surface waters of the central and eastern Pacific may well have contributed 0.1 to 0.2C to global temperatures. The El Nino peaked in December but although it is now weakening, atmospheric temperatures tend to lag ocean temperatures by a few months.
As neutral, or even cooler La Nina conditions return to the Pacific basin, these monthly records may become less exaggerated, but it is more than likely that 2016 will be the warmest year on record, just ahead of 2014 and 2015.