Ocean water has a long “memory” for heat, as more energy must be absorbed or released to change its temperature than is the case for air. That ocean heat helped propel 2014 to the top of the standings and will continue to play a role in 2015. Of the past 12 months, nine of them have been the warmest or second warmest for that particular month, NOAA said in its latest data release.

The El Niño that NOAA has declared to have started in February could also keep temperatures elevated, as historically the climate state is associated with higher global temperatures.

“So if El Niño holds, and especially if it strengthens, we could very well be looking at another record warm year,” Blunden said.

Regardless of whether 2015 bests 2014 or comes up short, it is part of the larger, decades-long warming trend fueled by growth of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases released by human activity. Nine of the 10 warmest years in the books have occurred in the 21st century, and no record cold year has been set since 1911.

Watch out 2014, as 2015 may be coming for your crown.

This post originally appeared at Climate Central.

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