February 2024 has been declared the hottest month ever recorded globally

february/2024/climate change

February 2024 has been declared the hottest month ever recorded globally

The Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S) reports that February 2024 set a new global record as the hottest February ever, with an average temperature of 13.54°C. This surpasses the prior record established in 2016 by 0.12°C. Furthermore, the world saw new daily global average temperature records for four straight days last month, exceeding pre-industrial levels (1850-1900) by 2°C. February’s average temperature was 1.77°C higher than the estimated February average for the period 1850-1900, marking the ninth month in a row of record-breaking temperatures for any given month.


According to Copernicus, the first two weeks of February experienced “exceptionally high” daily global temperatures, including a stretch of four days where the average temperatures were 2°C above those of the pre-industrial era, occurring just a few months after the first day ever recorded above that threshold. Most regions around the world, including northern Siberia, central and northwest North America, most of South America, Africa, and western Australia, saw above-average temperatures, though Europe bore the most brunt, with temperatures in February at 3.30C above the 1991-2020 average for that month.


Ocean temperatures also remained at an “unusually high level,” continuing a long trend of “persistently and unusually high” sea temperatures since May of last year.  Oceans cover 70 percent of the planet and have kept the Earth’s surface liveable by absorbing 90 percent of the excess heat produced by the carbon pollution from human activity since the dawn of the industrial age. The escalation in ocean temperatures results in an increase in atmospheric moisture, which in turn causes more volatile weather patterns, characterized by intense winds and heavy rainfall. There have been recent alerts from experts about the possibility of a fourth widespread coral bleaching event, a direct consequence of marine heatwaves. Over the last hundred years, there has been a steady increase in sea temperatures, rising by an average of 0.13°C every decade. The rising temperatures of the waters increase the susceptibility of coral reefs to bleaching events outside the typical summer months, also diminishing their capacity for natural regeneration.


The year 2023 marked a historic peak in global temperatures, amplified by the resurgence of El Niño, a climatic event that has dramatically increased temperatures worldwide and is anticipated to persist into 2024. Copernicus recently confirmed that, for the first time ever, the crucial 1.5°C global warming threshold outlined in the Paris Agreement was surpassed over a twelve-month span, with global temperatures reaching 1.52°C above pre-industrial levels. Although this breach does not constitute a permanent crossing of this limit—since such measurements are considered over longer time spans, it unequivocally signals to the world the urgent need to address climate change to avoid reaching irreversible tipping points sooner than predicted.


The United Nations has warned that the planet is on a trajectory to experience a temperature increase significantly beyond 2°C, highlighting a shrinking window for implementing the substantial changes needed to limit global temperature rises. Carlo Buentempo, the Director of C3S, remarked that the record temperatures observed in February were anticipated, given the current levels of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere. He emphasized that without stabilizing these concentrations, the world will continue to encounter new temperature records and their associated impacts.


Furthermore, the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) recent report on global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions revealed an increase of 410 million tonnes (a 1.1% rise) in 2023, reaching a new high of 37.4 billion tonnes. This rise in emissions was partly attributed to a significant reduction in hydroelectric power production caused by unprecedented droughts affecting various regions, which led to a reliance on fossil fuels, contributing an additional 170 million tonnes of emissions. According to the IEA, without this shortfall in hydroelectric power, global emissions might have seen a decline last year.



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