Continuing the year’s warming trend, May 2021 tied with 2018 as the world’s sixth-warmest May on record, while the year to date (through May) ranked eighth warmest, according to scientists at NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information.
Here’s a closer look into NOAA’s latest monthly global climate report:
Climate by the numbers
The average global temperature in May was 1.46 degrees F (0.81 of a degree C) above the 20th-century average, tying with May 2018 as the sixth-warmest May recorded.
May 2021 ended as the 45th-consecutive May and the 437th-consecutive month with average temperatures peaking above the 20th-century average.
Regionally, Asia had its second-warmest May on record behind May 2020, and Africa had its sixth warmest. Meanwhile, Europe and North America experienced their coolest May since 2004 and 2011, respectively.
Season | March through May
The average global temperature for the three-month season, March through May, was 1.48 degrees F (0.82 of a degree C) above average, making it the eighth-warmest such season for the world on record.
The Northern Hemisphere had its sixth-warmest spring, while the Southern Hemisphere had its 11th-warmest autumn on record.
Year to date | January through May
The year to date (through May) ranked eighth-warmest on record and logged a global temperature of 1.39 degrees F (0.77 of a degree C) above the 20th-century average of 55.5 degrees F.
Africa had its third-warmest YTD on record, behind the same period for 2010 (2nd warmest) and 2016 (warmest). Asia and South America saw their eighth- and ninth-warmest YTDs on record, respectively.
More notable climate stats and facts from the May global climate report
Arctic sea ice retreated at a slightly slower rate: Sea ice covered about 243,000 square miles of the Arctic last month — an area roughly the size of Somalia — making it the ninth-smallest May ice coverage in the 43-year record, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center offsite link.
Snow cover was quite sparse: The Northern Hemisphere’s snow cover in May was 1.08 million square miles below average — the third smallest for May on record. Only May 2010 and 2012 had a smaller snow cover. North America’s snow cover placed 11th smallest on record, while Eurasia saw its fifth smallest.