Warmest January on record and first annual breach of key 1.5° warming limit worldwide
The average surface temperature on Earth in January was 13.14 degrees Celsius. This is a new record, the Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S) reported on Thursday. It is also the first time global warming has exceeded 1.5 degrees Celsius for an entire year.
In Europe, January temperatures were above the average of the last 30 years in the southern part of the continent and below average in the Scandinavian countries. January was wetter than average over much of Europe. In other places, such as Spain, it was drier.
"The year 2024 begins with another record-breaking month: not only is it the warmest January on record, but we have just experienced a 12-month period that was 1.5° Celsius warmer than the pre-industrial reference period," Samantha Burgess, deputy director of C3S, told De Standaard.
"This far exceeds anything that is acceptable," Professor Sir Bob Watson, a former chair of the UN's climate body, told BBC Radio 4. "Look what's happened this year with only 1.5°C - we've seen floods, we've seen droughts, we've seen heatwaves and wildfires all over the world."
The long-term warming trend is primarily driven by human activity, mainly the burning of fossil fuels. This process releases greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, which contribute significantly to the ongoing warming of the planet.
"A rapid reduction in greenhouse gas emissions is the only way to stop global warming"
This human activity is responsible for most of the warming observed last year. "A rapid reduction in greenhouse gas emissions is the only way to stop global warming," Burgess says.
C3S publishes monthly climate bulletins reporting observed changes in land surface temperature, sea surface temperature, sea ice cover and hydrological variables. All findings are based on computer-generated analysis considering billions of measurements from satellites, ships, aircraft and weather stations around the world.
Temperatures are not only rising on land but also in the oceans. In January, the average global sea surface temperature between 60 degrees north and 60 degrees south reached 20.97°C, just 0.01° cooler than the record set in August 2023. Since 31 January, the daily sea surface temperature between 60°N and 60°S has set new absolute records.
C3S also reports that the extent of sea ice around the North Pole was about average, while the extent around the South Pole was below average.
© PHOTO OLIVIER MORIN / AFP