April 2024: Global Heat Records Shattered as Climate Change Intensifies

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Record-breaking Global Temperature Averages

In April, the European Union’s climate monitor released a new report highlighting another “remarkable” month of record-breaking global air and sea surface temperatures. Despite the weakening of the El Niño weather phenomenon, which typically contributes to increased heat, the abnormally warm conditions persisted. The Copernicus Climate Change Service, the EU’s climate monitor, attributed the exacerbation of these extremes to human-caused climate change.

Continued Record Heat

According to Copernicus, every month since June of the previous year has been the warmest on record. April 2024 was no exception, with temperatures reaching 1.58 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial average from 1850-1900. Copernicus noted that a similar streak of monthly global temperature records occurred in 2015/16. Additionally, the average temperature over the last 12 months exceeded pre-industrial levels by 1.6 degrees Celsius, surpassing the 1.5-degree Celsius target set by the 2015 Paris Agreement to limit global warming.

It is important to note that this anomaly does not indicate a failure to meet the Paris Agreement target, as the target is calculated over a period of decades. However, it does emphasize the exceptional nature of the current global temperature conditions.

Diverging Extremes and Extreme Weather Events

In April, various regions across the globe experienced diverging extremes in the form of floods and droughts. Heatwaves struck swathes of Asia, from India to Vietnam, while southern Brazil suffered from deadly flooding. Copernicus climatologist Julien Nicolas highlighted the correlation between each additional degree of global warming and the intensity and likelihood of extreme weather events.

Europe witnessed a wetter-than-usual April, with the exception of southern Spain, Italy, and the western Balkans, which experienced drier conditions. Heavy rain led to flooding in parts of North America, Central Asia, and the Persian Gulf. Eastern Australia also faced heavy rains, while the majority of the country and regions such as northern Mexico and the Caspian Sea experienced drier-than-normal conditions.

Impacts of Warmer Oceans

Although the El Niño weather pattern, which contributes to global temperature rises, peaked earlier in the year and was transitioning towards a neutral condition in April, average sea surface temperatures continued to break records for the 13th consecutive month. The warming of oceans poses threats to marine life, increases humidity in the atmosphere, and jeopardizes the crucial role of oceans in absorbing greenhouse gas emissions.

Climate forecasts suggest that the second half of the year may witness a transition to La Niña, which typically lowers global temperatures. However, the conditions surrounding this transition remain uncertain, according to Nicolas.

Future Temperature Records

Carlo Buontempo, the director of Copernicus, emphasized that the increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases will continue to trap extra energy in the ocean and atmosphere, pushing global temperatures towards new records. In March, the United Nations warned of a high probability of record temperatures in 2024, following a decade of record heat that pushed the planet “to the brink.” While it is still too early to predict whether new records will continue to be broken, given the exceptional nature of 2023, Nicolas stated that the outlook remains uncertain.

Source: The Manila Times

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