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Global average temperature anomalies during April 2019, when compared to 1951-1980. Image: NASA GISS.

The globe just experienced its second-warmest April since reliable instrument data began in 1880, according to NASA, NOAA and the Japan Meteorological Agency.

Why it matters: The unusually warm April follows a top 3 hottest March, and indicates that the Earth is headed for yet another top 3 warmest year on record. In addition, Arctic sea ice extent reached a record low for April, NOAA reports. This follows recent news that carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere edged past 415 parts per million for the first time in human history, likely becoming the highest level on record in at least 3 million years.

Human activities, such as burning fossil fuels for energy and chopping down forests, are causing carbon dioxide levels to increase at a quickening pace.

Details: According to NASA, April saw a global temperature anomaly of 0.99ºC, or 1.8ºF, above the 20th century average. This was cooler than only April 2016, when a powerful El Niño event in the Pacific Ocean helped add to a natural boost in global temperatures that were already elevated due to human-caused climate change.

  • Right now, a weak El Niño event, featuring unusually warm water in the tropical Pacific Ocean along with an increase in showers and thunderstorm activity near the equator, is helping to add additional heat to the atmosphere.

The Arctic, including Greenland and Siberia, was particularly mild during April, and the Greenland melt season got off to an especially early start.

  • A recent study found that the world's largest island has shed ice nearly 6 times faster in the past decade when compared to the 1980s.

The context: Last year was Earth's 4th-warmest year on record, coming in behind 2016 — the planet's warmest recorded year — as well as 2015 and 2017.

  • The world's 5 warmest years have all occurred since 2014.
  • 9 of the 10 warmest years on record since reliable data began in 1880 have occurred since 2005.
  • Global carbon dioxide emissions from the burning of fossil fuels such as coal, oil and natural gas ticked up in 2018 to the highest levels in recorded history, according to the Global Carbon Project and the International Energy Agency.
  • According to Berkeley Earth researcher Robert Rohde, carbon dioxide levels have "increased more in the last 15 years than they did in over 9,000 years prior" to when fossil fuels were first introduced.
  • Climate scientists have shown that urgent, significant cuts to greenhouse gases are needed in order to prevent global warming from causing potentially devastating impacts around the world.

Go deeper:

Go deeper

9 hours ago - Health

FDA advisory panel recommends Pfizer boosters for those 65 and older

A healthcare worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine at the Key Biscayne Community Center on Aug. 24, 2021. Photo: Eva Marie Uzcategui/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A key Food and Drug Administration advisory panel on Friday overwhelmingly voted against recommending Pfizer vaccine booster shots for younger Americans, but unanimously recommended approving the third shots for individuals 65 and older, as well as those at high-risk of severe COVID-19.

Why it matters: While the votes are non-binding, and the FDA must still make a final decision, Friday's move pours cold water on the Biden administration's plan to begin administering boosters to most individuals who received the Pfizer vaccine later this month.

9 hours ago - World

France recalls ambassadors from U.S. and Australia over submarine deal

Secretary of State Antony Blinken (L), French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian (C), and French ambassador to the U.S. Philippe Etienne. Photo: Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty Images

France has taken the extraordinary step of recalling its ambassadors to the U.S. and Australia after both countries blindsided their French allies with a new military pact and submarine contract, the French Foreign Ministry announced on Friday.

The backstory: While sealing an agreement with the U.S. and U.K. to acquire nuclear submarines, Australia ripped up an existing $90 billion submarine deal with France. That led senior French officials to accuse the U.S. of a "stab in the back."

Updated 9 hours ago - World

In reversal, Pentagon now says drone strike killed 10 Afghan civilians

Caskets for the dead are carried towards the gravesite as relatives and friends attend a mass funeral for members of a family that is said to have been killed in a U.S. drone airstrike, in Kabul on Aug. 30. Photo: Marcus Yam/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

A U.S. drone strike launched on Aug. 29 killed 10 civilians in Afghanistan, including seven children, rather than the Islamic State extremists the Biden administration claimed it targeted, the Pentagon said Friday.

Why it matters: U.S. Central Command said at the time that officials "know" the drone strike "disrupted an imminent ISIS-K threat" to Kabul's airport, and that they were "confident we successfully hit the target."

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