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If You're Younger Than 31, You've Never Experienced This

Life was cooler in 1985.

24/06/2016 12:27 PM AEST | Updated 24/06/2016 12:27 PM AEST
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Still not convinced the Earth is rapidly warming? Consider this: The last time the global monthly temperature was below average was February 1985.

That means if you are 30 years old or younger, there has not been a single month in your entire life that was colder than average.

"It's a completely different world we're already living in," Mark Eakin, coordinator of NOAA’s Coral Reef Watch, told scientists gathered this week for the International Coral Reef Symposium in Honolulu. He added it likely won't be long before that same age bracket has experienced only above-average temperatures.

"It's happening that fast," Eakin said.

Pacific Press via Getty Images
A child lies down on a dry bed of parched mud that is the dried up River Varuna at Phoolpur. Much of India is reeling from a heat wave and severe drought conditions that have decimated crops, killed livestock and left at least 330 million Indians without enough water for their daily needs.

Michael Mann, a climate scientist at Penn State University, told The Huffington Post that as long as humans continue to warm the planet by burning fossil fuels, there is, in a sense, no "normal" or "average." 

"What is considered unusually warm today will be considered average in the future," Mann said in an email. "And for what we call 'warm' in the future, there is currently no analog."

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration recently announced May 2016 as the 13th consecutive warmest month on record -- the longest streak since global temperature records began in 1880. 

"The combined average temperature over global land and ocean surfaces for May 2016 was the highest for May in the 137-year period of record, at 0.87°C (1.57°F) above the 20th century average of 14.8°C (58.6°F), besting the previous record set in 2015 by 0.02°C (0.04°F)," NOAA said. 

NASA data shows global temperatures in May were 1.67 degrees Fahrenheit above the 1951-1980 average.

NOAA

Responding to the May data, David Carlson, director of the World Climate Research Programme, said the state of the planet's climate so far in 2016 is "much cause for alarm." 

In a statement, Carlson listed some of the remarkable phenomena: "Exceptionally high temperatures. Ice melt rates in March and May that we don’t normally see until July. Once-in-a-generation rainfall events."

"The super El Niño is only partly to blame," he added. "Abnormal is the new normal."

NASA's data shows that July 1985 was the last month with a below-average global temperature, meaning there have been 370 consecutive months of average or above-average temperatures -- slightly fewer than by NOAA's count.

Both NOAA and NASA, which use different dates to determine long-term average temperatures, declared 2015 the hottest year on record. The extreme heat was driven by both man-made global warming and the winter’s powerful El Niño event.

And 2016 is already well on its way to toppling last year's record. In fact, Gavin Schmidt, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, gives it a near-100 percent certainty. 

Earlier this week, scorching triple-digit temperatures and fires swept across the Southwestern U.S., including Nevada, California, Arizona, Utah and New Mexico. And extreme temperatures in recent years have also been blamed for driving widespread coral bleaching

Ultimately, a world in which temperatures continue to climb, and the definition of "warm" continues to change, is a possible future, Mann told HuffPost. But it doesn't have to be our future.

"There is still time to act to reduce carbon emissions to avoid truly dangerous warming of the planet," he said.

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