World Sees 12th Straight Record-Hot Month and Braces for More

(Bloomberg) -- May marked the Earth’s 12th consecutive month of record-breaking temperatures, with more heat waves expected this summer.

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The European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service reported that last month overall temperatures globally were 1.52C above historical averages and marked the hottest May on record. The month witnessed often catastrophic heat from California to New Delhi, even leading to fatalities.

Climate change is exacerbating the effects of extreme weather with the past 12 months seeing the global average temperature 1.63C higher than pre-industrial levels, and above the 1.5C threshold that policymakers and scientists say threatens life on the planet.

“It is shocking but not surprising that we have reached this 12-month streak,” Copernicus’ director Carlo Buontempo said in a statement. “We are living in unprecedented times, but we also have unprecedented skill in monitoring the climate and this can help inform our actions.”

The northern hemisphere is bracing for another extreme summer after scorching heat threatened the health and livelihoods of millions last year.

California and the US Southwest are looking at their first major heat wave this week with temperatures expected to breach 40C. More blistering days are expected later in June. High temperatures in Europe also mean the threat of wildfires is reaching extreme levels in Greece and Spain, with risks also spreading to the French Riviera.

India has blown past 50C last month with nearly 100 deaths recorded in the last few days in one of the worst-affected states. The UK beat the 2008 record for the hottest May with average temperatures set to rise in June as well.

Currently a strong El Niño or warming in the Pacific which has driven some of these record temperatures is winding down. La Niñas often follow intense El Niños leading to a drastic shift in weather patterns — bringing droughts to some places even as it produces flooding and hurricanes in others.

La Nina occurs when the surface of the Pacific Ocean along the equator cools and the atmosphere above it reacts.

--With assistance from Jack Wittels.

(Updates with details on wildfires in Europe in paragraph five)

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