Every month since May 2015 has broken the record for average global temperature recorded that month. Finally, after a 16-month hot streak, October 2016 saw slightly cooler temperatures than those recorded this time last year, thanks largely to the La Niña weather phenomenon. But before climate change skeptics whip out the I-told-you-so's, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) points out that 2016 is still on track to be the warmest year ever recorded.
With a global average temperature of 58.9° F (14.9° C), 2015 still holds the title of warmest October, but the month just passed wasn't too far behind, on 58.4° F (14.7° C). That's 1.31° F (0.76° C) above the 20th century average for the month, meaning it ties with 2003 as the third warmest October on record.
The main cause of the "cool" change, according to the NOAA, is the presence of a weak La Niña, but the news isn't exactly good, as the weather pattern is expected to worsen the dry conditions throughout the southern United States.
"The weak La Niña is likely to contribute to persisting or developing drought across much of the southern US this winter," says Mike Halpert, deputy director of the NOAA's Climate Prediction Center.
Despite the slight drop, 2016's year-to-date saw the highest temperatures recorded over both land and sea for that time, at 59.2° F (15.1° C). That's 1.75° F (1° C) above the 20th century average for the January-to-October period, and the highest since records began in 1880. With two months remaining, 2016 is well and truly on track to be one of the (if not, the)hottest years ever recorded.
Things look equally grim at the planet's poles. The Arctic sea ice extent was down 28.5 percent from the average between 1981 and 2010, making it the smallest recorded amount for the month of October. At the other end of the Earth, Antarctic sea ice was 4 percent less than the same period's average, for the second smallest October amount.