July 2016 was the hottest month ever recorded. That record lasted for all of one month as global temperatures remained at record-high levels through August, resulting in a tie with July during a period when the Earth typically cools.
Given natural variability, we might expect August to remain hot if an El Nino were forming in the Pacific, but at that time, with a weak La Nina struggling to fire off, the exact opposite was the case. In other words, the El Nino/La Nina cycle, which typically helps to drive global warm and cool periods, was pointed in the direction of ‘cool’, but the world remained near record-hot levels.
(2016 Climate Year continues to redefine global temperature boundaries as August ties July for hottest month ever recorded. Image source: NASA GISS.)
So what the heck was going on?
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