For the first time, the world faced 12 consecutive months of temperatures 1.5C warmer than in the pre-industrial era, European climate monitor Copernicus reported on Thursday.
The month of January was marked by a heat wave in South America that led to record temperatures and devastating fires in Colombia and Chile, claiming more than 130 lives in the Valparaíso region.
The Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S) said that from February 2023 to January 2024, an average temperature was recorded that was 1.52 ° C higher than the period 1850-1900, which scientists are calling a “warning to humanity.”
“This does not mean that we have exceeded the +1.5 degree limit set in Paris in 2015,” said Richard Betts, director of climate impact studies at the national office of British Meteorology.
To do this, this limit would have to be consistently exceeded over several decades.
“However, this is another reminder of the profound changes we have already brought to our global climate and to which we must now adapt,” he added.
“This is a stark warning about the urgency of action to limit climate change,” said Brian Hoskins, director of the Grantham Institute on Climate Change at Imperial College London.
“It is a very important and catastrophic signal,” said Johan Rockström from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research.
“A warning to tell humanity that we are approaching the 1.5 degree limit faster than expected,” he added.
The current climate is already around 1.2 °C above the average between 1850 and 1900. At the current emission rate, UN experts estimate that there is a probability that the 1.5 degree limit will be reached in the five-year period 2030-2035 , is 50%.
After a record-breaking 2023, the new year started on the same path. With an average temperature of 13.14ºC, January 2024 was the warmest on record.
The average is 0.12°C compared to the previous record set in January 2020 and 0.70°C above what is typical for the period 1991-2020. Compared to pre-industrial times, it was 1.66 °C warmer.
In addition, January marks the eighth consecutive month in which a historical heat record has been broken in each of these months, Copernicus notes.
The heat wasn’t just limited to South America. Apart from a few cold episodes and heavy rainfall in some parts of the world, the northern winter was particularly mild in southern France, Spain or parts of the United States, Canada, Africa, the Middle East and Asia.
2024 worse than 2023?
The sea surface is also overheating, with a new record average temperature in January of 20.97°C.
It is the second highest value on record, just 0.01ºC below the August 2023 record.
The heat is expected to continue beyond January 31, although the El Niño climate phenomenon is gradually easing and is expected to lead to a drop in sea temperatures.
The year 2024 “starts with a new record month,” lamented Samantha Burgess, deputy head of the Copernicus climate service.
“A rapid reduction in greenhouse gas emissions is the only way to slow the rise in global temperatures,” he added.
In mid-January, the World Meteorological Organization and the United States’ National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) warned that 2024 could easily break last year’s heat record.
According to NOAA, there is a 33% chance that 2024 will exceed this historical maximum and a 99% chance that it will be among the five warmest years on record.