World overheated as April smashed global heat records

A person walks along a trail as the sun sets on July 16, 2023, in Death Valley National Park, Calif. [Courtesy, VOA]

April marked another ‘remarkable’ month of record-breaking global air and sea surface temperature averages, according to a new report by the EU's climate monitor published on Wednesday.

The abnormally warm conditions came despite the continued weakening of the El Nino weather phenomenon that contributes to increased heat, said the EU's Copernicus Climate Change Service, pointing to human-caused climate change for exacerbating the extremes.

Record heat

Since June last year, every month has been the warmest such period on record, according to Copernicus.

April 2024 was no exception, clocking in at 1.58 degrees Celsius above the 1850-1900 pre-industrial average.

"While unusual, a similar streak of monthly global temperature records happened previously in 2015/16," Copernicus said.

The average temperature over the last 12 months was also recorded at 1.6C above pre-industrial levels, surpassing the 1.5C target set by the 2015 Paris Agreement to limit global warming.

The anomaly does not mean the Paris target has been missed, which is calculated over a period of decades.

But it does signal "how remarkable the global temperature conditions we are currently experience are", Copernicus climatologist Julien Nicolas told AFP.

Last month was the second warmest April ever recorded in Europe, as was March and the entire winter period.

Diverging extremes

Swathes of Asia from India to Vietnam have been struck by scorching heat waves in recent weeks, while southern Brazil has suffered deadly flooding.

"Each additional degree of global warming is accompanied by extreme weather events, which are both more intense and more likely," Nicolas said.

Diverging extremes in the form of floods and droughts peppered the planet in April.

Much of Europe saw a wetter April than usual, although southern Spain, Italy and the western Balkans were drier than average, Copernicus reported.

Heavy rain resulted in flooding over parts of North America, Central Asia and the Persian Gulf.

While eastern Australia was hit with heavy rains, the bulk of the country experienced drier than normal conditions, as did northern Mexico and around the Caspian Sea.

Warmer oceans

The natural El Nino pattern, which warms the Pacific Ocean and leads to a rise in global temperatures, peaked earlier this year and was headed towards "neutral condition" in April, Copernicus said.

Still, the average sea surface temperatures broke records in April for the 13th consecutive month.

Warming oceans threaten marine life, contribute to more humidity in the atmosphere and puts at risk its crucial role in absorbing planet-heating greenhouse gas emissions.

Climate forecasts suggest the second half of the year could even see a transition to La Nina, which lowers global temperatures, Nicolas said, "but conditions are still rather uncertain".

The end of El Nino does not mean an end to high temperatures.

More records

"The extra energy trapped into the ocean and the atmosphere by increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases will keep pushing the global temperature towards new records," Copernicus director Carlo Buontempo said in a statement.

The UN already in March warned that there was a "high probability" that 2024 would see record temperatures, while 2023 capped off a decade of record heat, pushing the planet "to the brink".

It was "still a little early" to predict whether new records would continue to be broken, Nicolas said, given that 2023 was exceptional.

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