World temperatures go a full year above 1.5 C warming limit, EU scientists say

The world just experienced its hottest January on record, continuing a run of exceptional heat fuelled by climate change, the European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S) said on Thursday.

Last month surpassed the previous warmest January, which occurred in 2020, in C3S’s records going back to 1950.

The exceptional month came after 2023 ranked as the planet’s hottest year in global records going back to 1850, as human-caused climate change and the El Niño weather phenomenon, which warms the surface waters in the eastern Pacific Ocean, pushed temperatures higher.

Every month since June has been the world’s hottest on record, compared with the corresponding month in previous years.

“Not only is it the warmest January on record but we have also just experienced a 12-month period of more than 1.5 C above the pre-industrial reference period,” C3S Deputy Director Samantha Burgess said.

“Rapid reductions in greenhouse gas emissions are the only way to stop global temperatures increasing,” she said.

For the first time, the global temperature pushed past the internationally agreed upon warming threshold for an entire 12-month period, with February 2023 to January 2024, running 1.52 C, according to C3S.

Hopes that El Niño effect could weaken

U.S. scientists have said 2024 has a one-in-three chance of being even hotter than last year, and a 99 per cent chance of ranking in the top five warmest years.

The El Niño phenomenon began to weaken last month, and scientists have indicated it could shift to the cooler La Niña counterpart later this year. Still, average global sea surface temperatures last month were the highest for any January on record.

Countries agreed in the 2015 Paris Agreement to try to prevent global warming surpassing 1.5 C, to avoid it unleashing more severe and irreversible consequences.

WATCH l Scientists surprised by rate of broken records in 2023:

2023 was the hottest year on record… by a lot

The year 2023 was 1.48 C warmer than the pre-industrial average from 1850-1900, beating out 2016’s record of 1.25 C, according to the European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service.

Despite exceeding 1.5 C in a 12-month period, the world has not yet breached the Paris Agreement target, which refers to an average global temperature over decades.

Some scientists have said the goal can no longer realistically be met, but have urged governments to act faster to cut CO2 emissions to limit overshooting the target —and the deadly heat, drought and rising seas that this would inflict on people and ecosystems — as much as possible.

“These are much more than numbers, ranks and records — they translate to real impacts on our farms, families and communities from unprecedented heat, changing growing seasons and rising sea levels,” North Carolina State Climatologist Kathie Dello told the Associated Press.

While it was record hot in January, the level above normal was lower than the previous six months, according to Copernicus data.

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