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March marks ten months of record-breaking temperatures

by Madaline Dunn

According to the European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S), March marked ten months of record-breaking temperatures. 

This echoes the findings of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) earlier this year, which confirmed that 2023 was the hottest year on record.

C3S, which routinely publishes monthly climate bulletins, noted that temperatures averaged 14.14°C in March. 

This, it said, beat the previous record from 2016 by 0.10°C and was 1.68°C warmer than the average March temperature during the related pre-industrial period (1850-1900).

Global temperatures reach record-high

The report detailed that Europe saw the second warmest March on record, with temperatures averaging 2.12°C above 1991-2020 and only a marginal 0.02°C cooler than March 2014. 

Outside of Europe, C3S data showed temperatures were most above average over eastern North America, Greenland, eastern Russia, Central America, parts of South America, many parts of Africa, southern Australia, and parts of Antarctica. 

However, more broadly, the global average temperature for the past twelve months, ending in March, was also the highest on record, at 1.58°C above pre-industrial averages.

Ocean warmth unprecedented

Alongside this, C3S found that global average sea surface temperature also reached a record high level at 21.07°C, up marginally from 21.06°C in February.

This is despite El Niño – a climatic pattern that warms sea surface in the central-east equatorial Pacific- weakening.

Ocean temperatures have now been at unprecedented warm levels for over 12 months, it was found. 

Warmer oceans impact weather patterns, making them more erratic, and here, C3S notes that March was also wetter than average. 

The analysis highlighted storms causing heavy rainfall over the Iberian Peninsula and southern France, with conditions wetter than average in regions of North America, across Central Asia, Japan, much of the Arabian Peninsula, Madagascar, and parts of South America.

Australia, in particular, experienced an exceptionally wet month, it noted.

Hurricanes can also be fuelled by these hotter temperatures, and indeed, Colorado State University (CSU) researchers in the US are predicting 11 hurricanes in 2024. 

Elsewhere, Russia and Kazakhstan have been hit by what are being called the “worst floods in decades,” with tens of thousands of people being evacuated. 

Alongside these impacts, the world is being shaken by record-breaking droughts. A recent study by World Weather Attribution, for example, found that the devastating drought in the Amazon last year was primarily driven by climate change, not El Niño, and was made 30 times more likely by the former. 

Commenting on the data released on Tuesday, Samantha Burgess, Deputy Director of Copernicus Climate Service (C3S), said: ”March 2024 continues the sequence of climate records toppling for both air temperature and ocean surface temperatures, with the 10th consecutive record-breaking month. The global average temperature is the highest on record, with the past 12 months being 1.58°C above pre-industrial levels.”

Speaking to Reuters, Burgess explained that it’s the long-term trend with exceptional records that is concerning.

“Seeing records like this – month in, month out – really shows us that our climate is changing, is changing rapidly,” she added.

World must rapidly reduce greenhouse gas emissions

Burgess noted that stopping further warming requires “rapid reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.” 

Yet, a report from the IEA earlier this year found that 2023 also witnessed a record level of emissions at 37.4 billion tonnes.

Fossil fuels are both the biggest contributor to global emissions and the primary driver of climate change, and in a signal toward progress, COP28 ended with the world agreeing to transition away from them. 

However, since then, the world’s fossil fuel giants have called the phase-out a “fantasy,” rolled back on emissions pledges, and continued expansion.

Moreover, while the world’s renewable energy grew by 50 per cent last year to 510 gigawatts (GW), this must rapidly scale to stave off further global temperature increases. 

Looking ahead, as temperatures continue to soar, speaking the BBC News, Gavin Schmidt, Director, NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS), warned: “By the end of the summer, if we’re still looking at record-breaking temperatures in the North Atlantic or elsewhere, then we really have kind of moved into uncharted territory.” 

By Madaline Dunn, Lead Journalist, ESG Mena

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