The exceptional heat that enveloped the planet last summer will continue strongly in 2024:
Last January was the warmest ever measured, the European Union climate observatory announced Thursday.
It was also the warmest January on record in the oceans, according to the European Union's Copernicus Climate Change Service.
A firefighter puts out the flames of a forest fire in the Panorama settlement, near Agioi Theodori, about 70 km west of Athens, on July 18, 2023. (Photo by Valerie GACHE / AFP)
Sea surface temperatures were only slightly lower than August 2023, the warmest month on record for the oceans.
And sea temperatures continued to rise in the first days of February, surpassing the daily records of last August.
The oceans absorb Most of the extra heat that greenhouse gases in the atmosphere trap near the Earth's surface, making them a reliable indicator of how much and how quickly we are warming the planet.
Warmer oceans provide more fuel for hurricanes and atmospheric river stormsand can alter marine life.
With January, there are now eight consecutive months in which the average air temperatures, both on the continents and in the seas, have surpassed all previous records for that time of year.
In total, 2023 was Earth's hottest year in more than a century and a half.
The main cause of this warming is not a mystery to scientists:
The burning of fossil fuels, deforestation and other human activities have caused temperatures to rise steadily for more than a century.
The current El Niño weather cycle is also allowing it to be released more ocean heat to the atmosphere.
However, exactly why the Earth has been so hot for so long in recent months remains a matter of debate among researchers, who are waiting for more data to come in to see if other, less predictable and perhaps less understood, they could also be acting on the margins.
“Rapidly reducing greenhouse gas emissions is the only way to stop the planet's temperature from rising,” said Samantha Burgess, deputy director of Copernicus.
According to Copernicus data, January temperatures were well above average in eastern Canada, northwest Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia, although much of the interior United States was colder than usual. Some areas of South America were warmer and drier than normal, contributing to the recent forest fires that devastated central Chile.
The intensity of recent underwater heat waves led the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in December to add three new levels to its ocean thermal alert system to indicate where corals might be bleaching or dying.
An El Niño pattern like the one currently observed in the Pacific is associated with warmer years for the planet, as well as a series of effects on precipitation and temperatures in specific regions.
But as humans warm the planet, the effects that meteorologists could confidently expect El Niño to have on local temperatures They are not so predictable anymoresaid Michelle L'Heureux, a NOAA scientist who studies El Niño and its opposite phase, La Niña.
“In regions that previously tended to have below-average temperatures during El Niño, you almost never see that anymore,” L'Heureux said.
“You see something that is closer to the average, or even still leaning above the average.”
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