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Record hot March caps warmest 12 months on record — report

April 9, 2024

The past 10 months have all been the hottest on record. The average global temperature in March was 1.68 degrees Celsius warmer than the pre-industrial average.

Archive photo from January of a ferry crossing the English Channel at sunrise
Since June 2023, every month has been the "hottest ever" on recordImage: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire/empics/picture alliance

Europe's Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S) said on Tuesday that March 2024 was the warmest on record, making it the tenth consecutive month to break heat records.

Last month was 0.1 degrees Celsius warmer than the previous March, and 1.68 degrees Celsius hotter than an average March between the years 1850-1900, the reference period for the pre-industrial era.

Above-average temperatures were recorded in parts of Africa, South America, Greenland and Antarctica.  Sea surface temperatures also hit a "shocking new high," the report said.

Hottest 12-month period

The average temperature for the 12-month period ending in March was 1.58 degrees Celsius warmer than the pre-industrial average, making it the warmest 12-month period on record.

This record warmth does not necessarily mean that global temperatures have broken the 1.5-degree limit set by world leaders in Paris in 2015 as such measurements are taken in decades rather than individual years, but it does show a general trend in that direction.

"It's the long-term trend with exceptional records that has us very concerned," Samantha Burgess, deputy director of C3S told Reuters news agency.

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

Climate change and its effects have been seen across the globe. This year itself, Venezuela saw a record number of wildfires, and southern Africa has faced drought conditions. Warm waters in the southern hemisphere are causing a mass coral bleaching event.

Zimbabwe declares drought-induced state of disaster

What's behind the record-breaking temperatures?

Hotter ocean temperatures can cause a rise in the moisture in the atmosphere, causing erratic weather conditions. Scientists say the air can generally hold around 7% more water vapor for every 1 degree Celsius of temperature rise.

The El Nino weather pattern, which warms ocean surface waters and impacts global temperatures, has played a role in rising temperatures. It peaked in December and January and has begun to weaken. 

But scientists say that greenhouse gas emissions are the main cause of the rising temperatures.

"The main driver of the warming is fossil fuel emissions," Friederike Otto, a climate scientist at Imperial College London's Grantham Institute told Reuters. She added that failure to reduce these will result in more global warming, droughts, fires, heat waves and floods.

tg/ab (AFP, Reuters)