February 10, 2024
The global average temperature in January 2024 was 1.6°C above pre-industrial levels for the month, meaning the planet has breached the 1.5°C benchmark for the past 12 months. January 2024 was the warmest January on record globally, the Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S) has confirmed. Reporting on behalf of the European Commission, C3S has published its monthly climate update on the changes observed in global surface air and sea temperatures, sea ice cover and hydrological variables. All the reported findings are based on computer-generated analyses of data on atmospheric, land and oceanic climate variables. C3S reported an average surface air temperature of 13.14C in January 2024, which is 0.70C above the 1991-2020 average for January and 0.12C above the temperature of the previous warmest January in 2020. This makes it the eighth month in a row that is the warmest on record for the respective month of the year. Global mean temperature breaks records for past 12 months 2024 began with a January that was 1.66C warmer than an estimate of the January average for 1850-1900, the designated pre-industrial reference period. C3S based these findings on a system called ERA5 - hourly data generated using billions of measurements from satellites, ships, aircraft and weather stations around the world. The organisation also reports that the global mean temperature for the past twelve months (February 2023 to January 2024) is the highest on record, at 0.64C above the 1991-2020 average and 1.52C above the 1850-1900 pre-industrial average. "2024 starts with another record-breaking month - not only is it the warmest January on record but we have also just experienced a 12-month period of more than 1.5C above the pre-industrial reference period,” says Samantha Burgess, Deputy Director of C3S. “Rapid reductions in greenhouse gas emissions are the only way to stop global temperatures increasing.” European temperatures varied in January 2024 from much below the 1991-2020 average over the Nordic countries to much above average over the south of the continent. Outside Europe, temperatures were well above average over eastern Canada, north-western Africa, the Middle East and central Asia, and below average over western Canada, the central USA and most of eastern Siberia. The El Niño warming phenomenon began to weaken in the equatorial Pacific, but marine air temperatures in general remained at an unusually high level. The average global sea surface temperature (SST) for January over an area known as the global extrapolar ocean - which covers 60 degrees south to 60 degrees north - reached 20.97C, a record for January. It was 0.26C warmer than the previous warmest January, in 2016, and the second highest value for any month in the ERA5 dataset, within 0.01C of the record from August 2023 (20.98C). Since 31 January, the daily SST for the global extrapolar ocean has reached new absolute records, surpassing the previous highest values from 23 and 24 August 2023. Arctic sea ice cover highest since January 2009 C3S found that Arctic sea ice extent - areas where at least 15 per cent of the surface is covered by ice - was close to average in January 2024, and the highest for January since 2009. Sea ice concentrations were above average in the Greenland Sea (a persistent feature since October) and the Sea of Okhotsk while below-average concentrations prevailed in the Labrador Sea. Antarctic sea ice extent was the sixth lowest for January, at 18 per cent below average, but well above the lowest January value recorded in 2023 (-31 per cent). Below-average sea ice concentrations prevailed mainly in the Ross and Amundsen Seas, northern Weddell Sea and along the coast of East Antarctica. Europe experienced a wetter-than-average January in 2024 In January 2024, it was wetter than average in large parts of Europe, with storms impacting north- and south-western Europe. Drier-than-average conditions were seen in south-eastern and northern Spain and the Maghreb, southern UK, Ireland, eastern Iceland, most of Scandinavia, part of north-western Russia and the eastern Balkans. Beyond Europe, it was wetter than average in several regions, including western and south-eastern USA, a large region of Eurasia, south-eastern South America, southeast Africa and northern and eastern Australia. Drier-than-average conditions were seen across parts of western and southern North America, Canada, the Horn of Africa, the Arabian Peninsula and south-central Asia. In Australia and Chile these dry conditions contributed to deadly wildfires.