2024 Begins With More Record Heat Worldwide

The exceptional warmth that first enveloped the planet last summer is continuing strong into 2024: Last month clocked in as the hottest January ever measured, the European Union climate monitor announced on Thursday.

It was the hottest January on record for the oceans, too, according to the European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service. Sea surface temperatures were just slightly lower than in August 2023, the oceans’ warmest month on the books. And sea temperatures kept on climbing in the first few days of February, surpassing the daily records set last August.

The oceans absorb the great majority of the extra heat that greenhouse gases in the atmosphere trap near Earth’s surface, making them a reliable gauge of how much and how quickly we are warming the planet. Warmer oceans provide more fuel for hurricanes and atmospheric river storms and can disrupt marine life.

January makes eight months in a row that average air temperatures, across both the continents and the seas, have topped all prior records for the time of year. All in all, 2023 was Earth’s hottest year in over a century and a half.

The principal driver of all this warmth is no mystery to scientists: The burning of fossil fuels, deforestation and other human activities have driven the mercury steadily upward for more than a century. The current El Niño weather cycle is also allowing more ocean heat to be released into the atmosphere.

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