World leaders celebrated Earth Day in New York yesterday by signing the historic Paris Climate Agreement.  The goal is to limit global warming by “holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C (3.8°F) above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C (2.7°F).”  However, if the first 3 months of 2016 are any indication, meeting that challenge will be tough!

Globally, calculations from both NOAA and NASA indicate that the first three months of 2016 are each more than 1°C above each agency’s baseline average.  That’s easily the hottest three-month stretch on record.  NOAA uses the 20th century average temperature, and NASA uses the average temperature from 1951-80.  Climate Central has combined the NOAA and NASA temperature data and recalculated the numbers relative to an earlier baseline, 1881-1910.  That way we can see how much temperatures have risen compared to pre-industrial levels and better understand how we are doing with respect to the goals set forward by the Paris Climate Agreement.

The NASA/NOAA data indicate that the period of January-March was 1.48°C (2.66°F) above that 1881-1910 baseline for the planet and dangerously close to the numbers in the Paris Agreement goals.  During that three-month stretch, February stands out as the first month in recorded history to be more than 1.5°C above pre-industrial temperatures, reaching 1.55°C (2.79°F). 

The dramatic global hot streak that kicked off 2016 doesn’t mean the world has already failed to meet the goals in the Paris agreement. Three months do not make a year, and it is unlikely that 2016 as a whole will exceed the 1881-1910 climate-normal by 1.5°C.  This year began with an unusually strong El Niño in the Pacific Ocean, and higher-than-average temperatures would be expected in that scenario.  El Niño weakened considerably in March and planetary temperatures are likely to cool in the coming months.  Still, the spike in temperatures shows just how ambitious the Paris Climate Agreement may be.

As for New England, high temps reached the upper 70s and low 80s across the area on Friday.  That’s not record breaking, but well above the upper 50s that would be "normal" for this time of year.  Temps get back to "normal," or at least close, on Saturday and stay there for a few days.  After a dreary start, the rest of the weekend will be dry.  Temps will drop quickly after sunset.  In fact, patchy frost isn’t out of the question in the usual cool spots outside of Boston early Sunday morning.  So, if you have already started gardening, and you have some sensitive plants outside that you care about…you should either bring those plants in or cover them up.    

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