February has broken unprecedented temperature records, data shows | World News - Hindustan Times
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February has broken unprecedented temperature records, data shows

ByTannu Jain, New Delhi
Feb 18, 2024 05:08 AM IST

Halfway into February and the month has already broken several temperature records, latest data shows, following a trajectory of last year that ended as the hottest ever.

Halfway into February and the month has already broken several temperature records, latest data shows, following a trajectory of last year that ended as the hottest ever, and the 12 months leading to February 2024 that witnessed a warming of 1.52°C above the pre-industrial average.

A woman passes by a temperature marker that reads 45 degrees Celsius during a heat wave in San Lorenzo, Paraguay, on February 3, 2024. (AFP)
A woman passes by a temperature marker that reads 45 degrees Celsius during a heat wave in San Lorenzo, Paraguay, on February 3, 2024. (AFP)

The surface air temperature on February 9, the latest for when data is available, was 13.7°C — an anomaly of 1.3°C — making it the hottest February day in recorded history and narrowly missing the Paris Agreement threshold of 1.5°C.

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The February 9 temperature was almost a degree higher than the 12.8°C recorded on the same date last year, data from University of Maine’s ClimateReanalyser showed.

The high temperature follows the storms, droughts, wildfires and extreme winter in parts of the world as the climate crisis, supercharged by the naturally occurring El Nino phenomenon that set in last year, stoked record warming in 2023, making it likely the hottest calendar year in the past 100,000 years.

The average temperatures in six of the last seven months — July 2023, September 2023, October 2023, November 2023, December 2023, and January 2024 — were above the 1.5°C threshold. Two months – March 2023 and August 2023 – barely missed the 1.5°C threshold, clocking in an average of 1.49°C.

The heat extreme was also observed in the global oceans, with the sea surface temperature on the same day setting a new record — average temperature reached 21.2°C.

While the temperature has fallen since then, it has stuck above the 21°C mark, indicating the amount of heat the seas have absorbed and foreshadowing a much warmer year ahead even if the El Nino that set in last year transitions to a La Nina as the latest projections show.

“The ocean heat content is at an all-time high. As that heat is released into the atmosphere, expect global temperatures overall to continue to spike in 2024. It is almost certain that 2024 will break the 1.5C barrier for the full year, and may even breach 1.6C,” Eliot Jacobson, retired professor of mathematics and computer science, said in an email interview.

The ocean absorbs 90% of the heat caused by human-driven climate change. At the beginning of the year, the temperature has already spiked to 0.8°C above the pre-industrial average.

The rise in recent weeks has put the planet on course for 2°C of warming above the pre-industrial levels, Berkeley Earth scientist Zeke Hausfather told The Guardian.

“I’d say February 2024 is an odds-on favourite to beat the prior record set in 2016, but it’s by no means a foregone conclusion at this point as weather models suggest that global temperatures will fall back down in the coming week,” he said, highlighting that the behaviour of the climate had become more erratic and harder to forecast.

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