After 2023 was declared the hottest year on record, the start of 2024 saw the warmest January ever and the eighth consecutive month in which global temperatures reached all-time highs, according to a report from the Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S).
January 2024 had a global average air temperature of 13.14 degrees Celsius, surpassing the previous record set in 2020 by 0.12 degrees. The average January temperature was 1.66 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels (the period from 1850 to 1900), according to the C3S report.
Compared to the period from 1991 to 2020, January temperatures in Europe varied significantly, with temperatures well below average in the north of the continent and significantly above average in the south.
Outside of Europe, temperatures were significantly above average in northwest Africa, the Middle East, and Central Asia, while they were below average in the central United States and much of eastern Siberia.
Record-high sea temperature for January
The El Niño natural phenomenon began to weaken in the equatorial Pacific, but sea surface temperatures remained unusually high, say scientists from C3S.
The average sea surface temperature reached 20.97 degrees Celsius, a record for January. Looking at all months, the temperature measured in January 2024 is the second-highest sea temperature ever recorded. The record is held by August 2023, with 20.98 degrees Celsius.
Given these alarming trends, Samantha Burgess, deputy director of C3S, emphasized that not only did we start 2024 with the warmest January on record, but we also experienced 12 months with temperatures exceeding 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
“Rapid reductions in greenhouse gas emissions are the only way to stop global temperatures increasing,” Burgess said.
Dry conditions in Australia and Chile contributed to fires
Regarding sea ice, the Arctic sea ice extent was close to average, and the highest for January since 2009. However, the Antarctic sea ice extent was the sixth lowest for January, 18% below average.
In terms of hydrology, January 2024 was rainier than average in large parts of Europe, with storms affecting northwest and southwest Europe. Drier than average conditions were seen in southeastern and northern Spain and the Maghreb, southern United Kingdom, Ireland, eastern Iceland, much of Scandinavia, parts of northwest Russia, and eastern Balkans.
Outside of Europe, several regions experienced above-average rainfall, including the western and southeastern United States, large parts of Eurasia, southeastern South America, southeastern Africa, and northern and eastern Australia. Drier than average conditions were seen in parts of Canada, the Horn of Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, and Southeast Asia. In Australia and Chile, these dry conditions contributed to the development of devastating fires.