January was world's warmest on record, EU scientists say

Last month surpassed the previous warmest January, which occurred in 2020, in C3S's records going back to 1950

Kate Abnett, Reuters
Published : 8 Feb 2024, 05:29 AM
Updated : 8 Feb 2024, 05:29 AM

The world just experienced its hottest January on record, continuing a run of exceptional heat fuelled by climate change, the European Union's Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S) said on Thursday.

Last month surpassed the previous warmest January, which occurred in 2020, in C3S's records going back to 1950.

The exceptional month came after 2023 ranked as the planet's hottest year in global records going back to 1850, as human-caused climate change and the El Nino weather phenomenon, which warms the surface waters in the eastern Pacific Ocean, pushed temperatures higher.

Every month since June has been the world's hottest on record, compared with the corresponding month in previous years.

"Not only is it the warmest January on record but we have also just experienced a 12-month period of more than 1.5 C (1.7 F) above the pre-industrial reference period," C3S Deputy Director Samantha Burgess said.

"Rapid reductions in greenhouse gas emissions are the only way to stop global temperatures increasing," she said.

US scientists have said 2024 has a one-in-three chance of being even hotter than last year, and a 99% chance of ranking in the top five warmest years.

The El Nino phenomenon began to weaken last month, and scientists have indicated it could shift to the cooler La Nina counterpart later this year. Still, average global sea surface temperatures last month were the highest for any January on record.

Countries agreed in the 2015 Paris Agreement to try to prevent global warming surpassing 1.5 degrees Celsius, to avoid it unleashing more severe and irreversible consequences.

Despite exceeding 1.5 C in a 12-month period, the world has not yet breached the Paris Agreement target, which refers to an average global temperature over decades.

Some scientists have said the goal can no longer realistically be met, but have urged governments to act faster to cut CO2 emissions to limit overshooting the target - and the deadly heat, drought and rising seas that this would inflict on people and ecosystems - as much as possible.