The U.S. Is On A Historic Streak Of Record Highs

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Above Photo: Climate change earth melting. Source Bruce Rolff, Shutterstock

The U.S. is on a hot streak like no other. April marked yet another month where record highs outpaced record lows.

It’s the 29th month in a row with the odds tipped in favor of record highs, 10 months longer than the previous stretch where highs beat lows in 2011-12. Embedded within the historic warm streak are a series of records-setting records.

Every month of 2015 and 2016 saw more highs than lows, making them two of the only three calendar years that’s happened. The record high-to-low ratio this February was 49-to-1, making it the most lopsided month ever recorded (besting a record set in November 2016, no less).

The monthly record stretch belies a larger trend where the ratio of record highs to lows has been growing disproportionately with each passing decade. That’s due largely to rising background temperatures driven by increasing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.5_3_17_Brian_RecordsThroughMarch_720_3633_s_c1_c_c

In comparison, the longest run of months with more lows than highs was only 13 months and came over a period in 1968-69, according to Guy Walton, a meteorologist who meticulously tracks records.Of the five longest stretches of record highs beating record lows, four of the top five have come since 1998 (the outlier was a tie for 13 months in a row of heat set in 1980-81 and 1920-21, with the latter having comparatively few reports). Since 2000, the average year has had nine months with more record highs.

There are likely to be even more highs than lows in the future as carbon pollution drives temperatures higher still. Research published last year showed that by mid-century, highs could outpaces lows in an average year by 15-to-1. That would mean this record stretch could become the norm in the coming decades.

To get a sense of how the scale is tipping toward more highs, check out the monthly breakdown below. Months with more lows than highs are blue while months with more highs than lows are red.


  • DHFabian

    We can get a clearer picture from examining global trends, but yes, we’ve been aware of global warming for some years now. Some nations have made notable steps toward reducing their contribution to climate change. It isn’t clear how much the US is willing to reduce our contribution. One big problem is our excessive use of privately-owned motor vehicles. It appears that many are convinced that, thanks to modern technology, Americans can burn millions of gallons of fossil fuels every rush hour without having any impact on the environment.

    I assume we already reduced our contribution by shipping out such a huge number of manufacturing jobs. As poverty increases, consumption of fossil fuels continues to fall.