Ninth consecutive month of heat record on Earth in February

(Washington) For a ninth consecutive month, the Earth broke global heat records: February, winter as a whole and the planet’s oceans set new high temperature marks, according to the European Union’s climate agency Copernicus.

Among the latest records broken in this global heatwave fueled by climate change, ocean surface temperatures were not only the hottest in February, but eclipsed all months on record, surpassing the mark for the month of August 2023 and continuing to increase at the end of the month. The month of February, as well as the previous two winter months, far exceeded the internationally set threshold for long-term warming, Copernicus warned on Wednesday.

The last month that did not set a heat record was May 2023, just behind 2020 and 2016. Copernicus records fell steadily from June onwards.

In February 2024, the average temperature was 13.54 degrees Celsius, beating the old record from 2016 by about an eighth of a degree. According to Copernicus calculations, the month of February was 1.77 degrees Celsius warmer than the end of the 19th century.e century. Only last December was warmer than February compared to pre-industrial levels.

In the 2015 Paris Agreement, the world set a goal of keeping warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius or below. The Copernicus figures are monthly and do not quite correspond to the Paris threshold measurement system, which is averaged over two or three decades. But Copernicus data shows that the last eight months, starting in July 2023, have exceeded 1.5 degrees of warming.

Climatologists say most of this record heat is due to human-caused climate change and emissions of carbon dioxide and methane from burning coal, oil and natural gas. The extra heat comes from a natural phenomenon, El Niño, a warming of the central Pacific that is changing global weather patterns.

“Given the intensity of El Niño since mid-2023, it is not surprising that global temperatures are higher than normal as El Niño pumps heat from the ocean into the atmosphere , which increases air temperatures. But the scale of the records broken is alarming,” said Jennifer Francis, climatologist at the Woodwell Climate Research Center, who was not involved in the calculations.

“We also see a ‘hot spot’ over the Arctic, where warming is much faster than across the globe, leading to a cascade of effects on fisheries, ecosystems, melting ice and changing ocean currents, which have long-lasting and far-reaching consequences,” added Francis.

According to Francesca Guglielmo, senior climatologist at Copernicus, the record ocean temperatures outside the Pacific, where El Niño is concentrated, show that it is not just a natural effect.

Sea surface temperatures in the North Atlantic have reached a record high ― relative to a specific date ― every day for an entire year since March 5, 2023, “often by seemingly impossible margins,” according to Brian McNoldy, specialist in tropical sciences at the University of Miami.

These other ocean areas “are a symptom of the heat trapped by greenhouse gases that has been accumulating for decades,” explained Francis in an email. This heat is now emerging and pushing air temperatures into uncharted territories. »

“These abnormally high temperatures are very concerning,” said Natalie Mahowald, a climatologist at Cornell University. To avoid even higher temperatures, we must act quickly to reduce CO emissions2. »

This winter – December, January and February – was the warmest by almost a quarter of a degree, beating 2016, which was also an El Niño year. The three-month period was the warmest ever recorded in a season compared to pre-industrial levels in Copernicus records, which date back to 1940.

Mme Francis said that on a scale of 1 to 10 to assess the severity of the situation, she gives what is happening now “a 10, but soon we will need a new scale, because what is a 10 today “Today will be a 5 in the future, unless society can stop the buildup of heat-trapping gases.”

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