May 2022 tied as Earth’s sixth-warmest May since global record-keeping began in 1880, 1.09 degrees Celsius (1.96°F) above the 1880-1920 period, NASA reported June 13. The European Copernicus Climate Change Service rated May 2022 as the fifth-warmest May on record, the Japan Meteorological Agency, the eight-warmest May, and NOAA, the ninth-warmest May. Minor differences in the agencies’ rankings can result from the different ways they treat data-sparse regions such as the Arctic. NOAA said the year 2022 is more than 99% likely to rank among the 10 warmest years on record, and about 9% likely to rank in the top five.

Figure 1. Departure of temperature from the 1951-1980 average during May 2022. (Image credit: NASA)

La Niña persists

La Niña conditions persisted during May and are expected to continue through the Northern Hemisphere summer and into autumn and early winter (52% chance during July-September and 57-58% chance in October-December), NOAA reported in its June monthly discussion of the state of the El Niño/Southern Oscillation, or ENSO. The odds of an El Niño event are no more than 5% into early 2023.

Over the past month, sea surface temperatures in the benchmark Niño 3.4 region of the eastern tropical Pacific (5°N-5°S, 170°W-120°W) were about 0.7 degree Celsius below average. The range for “weak” La Niña conditions is 0.5-1.0 degree Celsius below average; the range for “moderate” La Niña conditions is 1.0-1.5 degrees Celsius below average.

The forecast from NOAA and Columbia University’s International Research Institute for Climate and Society for the peak portion of the Atlantic hurricane season (August-September-October) is for a 54% chance of La Niña, 43% chance of ENSO-neutral, and a 3% chance of El Niño. If it were to happen, a third consecutive northern winter with La Niña in 2022-23 would be unusual but not unprecedented: Three-year La Niña sequences occurred in 1973-76 and 1998-2001. There have been no four-year La Niña sequences in NOAA data that extends back to 1950, although La Niña was present in five out of six northern winters from 1970 to 1976.

Atlantic hurricane seasons during El Niño events tend to be quiet, because of increased vertical wind shear over the Atlantic. With the current forecast calling for only a small chance of an El Niño, a seventh consecutive active Atlantic hurricane season likely will occur in 2022.

Figure 2. Departure of sea surface temperature from average in the benchmark Niño 3.4 region of the eastern tropical Pacific (5°N-5°S, 170°W-120°W). Temperatures have ranged from 0.5 to 1.0 degree Celsius below average since mid-May. (Image credit: Tropical Tidbits)

The impact of the current La Niña event may be boosted by an intensely negative Pacific Decadal Oscillation, or PDO. The PDO is an index of sea surface temperatures across the northeast and tropical Pacific Ocean that reflects some of the circulation aspects of the El Niño-Southern Oscillation. The PDO can swing sharply from month to month, but usually it leans positive (warm) or negative (cool) for a few years at a time. Nearly every month since 2017 has had a negative PDO, and May’s value was the second lowest for any May since 1964. When the PDO is negative, La Niña’s impacts often are more pronounced.


Arctic sea ice: 14th-lowest May extent on record

Arctic sea ice extent during May 2022 was the 14th lowest in the 44-year satellite record, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center, NSIDC. This highest May extent since 2013 was caused by relatively cool arctic air temperatures (close to the 1981 to 2010 average). But by the end of May, sea ice extent was near the level of May 2012 – the year that ended up with the lowest sea ice minimum on record.

Antarctic sea ice extent in May was the fifth lowest on record.

Notable global heat and cold marks for May 2022

The information below is courtesy of Maximiliano Herrera. Follow him on Twitter: @extremetemps:

– Hottest May temperature in the Northern Hemisphere: 51.0°C (123.8°F) at Jacobabad, Pakistan, May 14;
– Coldest May temperature in the Northern Hemisphere: -44.3°C (-47.7°F) at Summit, Greenland, May 2;
– Hottest May temperature in the Southern Hemisphere: 39.2°C (102.6°F) at Curtin, Australia, May 1;
– Coldest May temperature in the Southern Hemisphere: -79.6°C (-111.3°F) at Dome Fuji, Antarctica, May 26;
– Highest 2022 average temperature to date (Jan.-May) in the Southern Hemisphere: 31.0°C (87.8°F) at Roebourne and Marble Bar, Australia; and
– Highest 2022 average temperature to date (Jan.-May) in the Northern Hemisphere: 33.1°C (91.6°F) at Yelimane and Kenieba, Mali.

Major weather stations in May: no all-time heat or cold records

No global station with a record of at least 40 years set or tied an all-time heat or cold record in May.

Three all-time national/territorial heat records set or tied in 2022

As of the end of May, three nations or territories had set or tied an all-time reliably measured national heat record:

Paraguay:  45.6°C (114.1°F) at Sombrero Hovy, January 1;
Australia:  50.7°C (123.3°F) at Onslow AP, January 13 (tie); and
Uruguay:  44.0°C (111.2°F) at Florida, January 14 (tie).

Two all-time national/territorial cold records set or tied in 2022

As of the end of May, two nations or territories had set or tied an all-time national cold record:

Montenegro: -33.4°C (-28.1°F) at Kosanica, January 25; and
Myanmar: -6.0°C (21.2°F) at Hakha, January 29 (tie).

Twenty-four additional monthly national/territorial heat records beaten or tied as of the end of May

In addition to the three all-time national/territorial records listed above, 24 nations or territories have set monthly all-time heat records in 2022, for a total of 27 monthly all-time records:

– January (11): Mexico, USA, Croatia, Liechtenstein, Moldova, Comoros, Mayotte, Maldives, Dominica, Equatorial Guinea, Montenegro;
– February (2): Papua New Guinea, Pakistan;
– March (3): Myanmar, Pakistan, Mauritius;
– April (3): British Indian Ocean Territories, Hong Kong, Chad; and
– May (5): Chad, Morocco, Liechtenstein, Andorra, Vatican City

Six additional monthly national/territorial cold records beaten or tied as of the end of May

In addition to the two all-time national/territorial records listed above, six nations or territories have set monthly all-time cold records in 2022, for a total of eight monthly all-time records:

– March (2): Montenegro and Cyprus;
– April (2): Andorra, Laos; and
– May (2): Vietnam, Thailand.

Hemispherical and continental temperature records in 2022

– Highest temperature ever recorded in January in North America: 41.7°C (107.1°F) at Gallinas, Mexico, January 1;

– Highest temperature ever recorded in the Southern Hemisphere (tie) and world record for highest temperature ever recorded in January: 50.7°C (123.3°F) at Onslow AP, Australia, January 13;

– Highest minimum temperature ever recorded in South America: 32.2°C (90.0°F) at Pampa del Infierno, Argentina, January 17; and

– Highest minimum temperature ever recorded in January in the Northern Hemisphere: 29.3°C (84.7°F) at Kenieba, Mali, on January 15 (and again on January 30).


Bob Henson contributed to this post.

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Jeff Masters

Jeff Masters, Ph.D., worked as a hurricane scientist with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990. After a near-fatal flight into category 5 Hurricane Hugo, he left the Hurricane Hunters to pursue a...