1 in 1.6 million

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Those are the approximate odds that unusually high temperatures seen in the U.S. over the past 13 months could be occurring randomly, according to the “State of the Climate” report released today by the National Climatic Data Center (NCDC). (Hat tip to Brad Plumer at the Washington Post for pointing out the figure.) The NCDC notes that the last 12 months have been the warmest on record in the U.S., and what’s more, each of the last 13 months was in the top third for its historical category—meaning March 2012 or December 2011 were all in the top third historically for other months of March or December. If this is a random event, it is really, really, really, really unlikely. Let’s put it this way: the deeply disappointing, 37-50 Philadelphia Phillies have a much better chance—0.4%, actually—of making the playoffs then the possibility that this flame-broiled year has been natural.

What’s much more likely is that the carbon dioxide that human beings have been loading into the atmosphere over the past century and a half is doing exactly what most scientists predicted it would: warming the climate. As I wrote in a column on TIME.com today, the weather we’re enduring now is what scientists expected climate change would look like. We can argue—and will, endlessly—about how we should respond to global warming, and how we should balance out the real costs of that action with the economic risks of doing nothing. But as for the scientific fact of man-made climate change—let’s just say that the odds are strongly in its favor.

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