This article originally appeared in Grist and was republished as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

Our overheating planet just reached another staggering — maybe even astronomical — new milestone.

"April was the 400th consecutive month of warmer-than-average global temperatures," writes @ericholthaus

In a report out Thursday, NOAA confirmed that April was the 400th consecutive month of warmer-than-average global temperatures. The last month cooler than the 20th century average was December 1984, back in the days of big hair and Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.”

We’ve come a long way since then. Somehow, though, we’re still debating whether human activity is behind the warmer atmosphere, not to mention what the hell we’re going to do about it.

Either the last 400 months were all an incredible coincidence — we’ll get to that in a second — or something else is going on. I’m thinking it’s the latter.

Sure, there is a tiny chance that Earth just pulled off the most impressively unlikely feat ever. If you assume the odds of a particular month being warmer than average are 50 percent — what you’d expect in a stable climate — then the odds of 400 warm months in a row would be approximately one in 1 x 10^120. The name for such a number is a “novemtrigintillion” — a value bigger than the number of atoms that exist in a trillion universes.

Thanks to science (and common sense) we know the real reason: People burning stuff for energy, something that — lucky us! — we really don’t have to do anymore.

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Comments

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When warmer-than-average global temperatures occur for 400 months in a row, isn't it time to stop calling them "unusual"?

You should provide some references for your stats. Are you sure it's 1 in a large number chance of being above average 400 times in a row. Is it that simple? What are your credentials? I think it might not be so straightforward. for example, it seems to me if you flip a coin, it can only be either one side of the other, but if you have a measure, surely there's some standard deviations involved. And how high above average has it been on average? And does the average change as you go along or is it the average when we started measuring? Etc. If I'm correct, and it's more complicated, you should be careful you don't cause science to lose credibility by misusing the numbers. Thx

I guess I can read the original to find out. Thanks for the link.

"...April 2018 also marks the 42nd consecutive April and the 400th consecutive month with temperatures, at least nominally, above the 20th century average..."

Frankly, even NASA needs to take more care with communication. What they say above is confusing. Why make it possible to argue?!? It says, "...400th consecutive month with TEMPERATURES..." I assume they mean "AVERAGE temperature" because "temperatures" suggests individual days. Is it so hard to say so?!

And what is "nominal" about them? Can't they explain? Nominal means something like it's a best estimate, but what is not real or accurate about the number?

And why say "at LEAST nominally"?!? Dam academics. I would naturally think Trump has given orders to make it all opaque, but I also know that science is famous for poor comms. Sigh....

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