Not only that, June continued another streak, it was the fourth warmest month on record in a row globally, with average combined land and sea surface temperatures for the period at 16.2 degrees C. The high heat in much of Asia and Europe as well as North and South America more than counterbalanced some local cooling in southern China, Scandinavia and the northwestern U.S. -- putting 2010 on track to surpass 2005 as the warmest year on record. Even in the higher reaches of the atmosphere -- where cooling of the upper levels generally continues thanks to climate change below -- June was the second warmest month since satellite record-keeping began in 1978, trailing only 1998.
"Warmer than average global temperatures have become the new normal," says Jay Lawrimore, chief of climate analysis at NOAA's National Climatic Data Center, which tracks these numbers. "The global temperature has increased more than 1 degree Fahrenheit [0.7 degree C] since 1900 and the rate of warming since the late 1970s has been about three times greater than the century-scale trend."
So what does the near future hold in terms of heat waves and record-breaking highs? Depending on how quickly La Niña conditions strengthen in the Pacific Ocean (and a host of other factors), this year could surpass previous records or at least take its place as one of the warmer years on record.