May 2021 tied for 6th-warmest May on record for the globe

The year to date remained among the top-10 warmest

UPDATED: July 9, 2021. The bullet on Arctic sea ice was corrected due to an omission in the description. Arctic sea ice coverage was about 243,000 square miles below average, not 243,000 square miles total.
A collage of typical climate and weather-related events: heatwaves, drought, hurricanes, wildfires and changes in sea ice coverage.
A collage of typical climate and weather-related events: heatwaves, drought, hurricanes, wildfires and changes in sea ice coverage. (NOAA)

Continuing the year’s warming trend, May 2021 tied with 2018 as the world’s sixth-warmest May on record, while the year to date (through May) ranked eighth warmest, according to scientists at NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information. 

Here’s a closer look into NOAA’s latest monthly global climate report:

Climate by the numbers

May 2021

The average global temperature in May was 1.46 degrees F (0.81 of a degree C) above the 20th-century average, tying with May 2018 as the sixth-warmest May recorded.

May 2021 ended as the 45th-consecutive May and the 437th-consecutive month with average temperatures peaking above the 20th-century average.

Regionally, Asia had its second-warmest May on record behind May 2020, and Africa had its sixth warmest. Meanwhile, Europe and North America experienced their coolest May since 2004 and 2011, respectively.

Season | March through May

The average global temperature for the three-month season, March through May, was 1.48 degrees F (0.82 of a degree C) above average, making it the eighth-warmest such season for the world on record. 

The Northern Hemisphere had its sixth-warmest spring, while the Southern Hemisphere had its 11th-warmest autumn on record. 

 Year to date | January through May

The year to date (through May) ranked eighth-warmest on record and logged a global temperature of 1.39 degrees F (0.77 of a degree C) above the 20th-century average of 55.5 degrees F. 

Africa had its third-warmest YTD on record, behind the same period for 2010 (2nd warmest) and 2016 (warmest). Asia and South America saw their eighth- and ninth-warmest YTDs on record, respectively.

A map of the world plotted with some of the most significant climate events that occurred during May 2021. Please see the story below as well as more details in the report summary from NOAA NCEI at http://bit.ly/Global202105.
A map of the world plotted with some of the most significant climate events that occurred during May 2021. Please see the story below as well as more details in the report summary from NOAA NCEI at http://bit.ly/Global202105. (NOAA NCEI)

More notable climate stats and facts from the May global climate report

  • Arctic sea ice retreated continued: Arctic sea ice coverage was about 243,000 square miles below average in May — an area roughly the size of Somalia — making it the ninth-smallest May ice coverage in the 43-year record, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center offsite link.
  • Snow cover was quite sparse: The Northern Hemisphere’s snow cover in May was 1.08 million square miles below average — the third smallest for May on record. Only May 2010 and 2012 had a smaller snow cover. North America’s snow cover placed 11th smallest on record, while Eurasia saw its fifth smallest.

More > Access NOAA’s climate report and download images from the NCEI website.

 

Media contact

John Bateman, john.jones-bateman@noaa.gov, (202) 424-0929