2024 on Track to Be Hottest Year Ever Recorded as Global Average Temperature Rises Above 1.5°C for 12 Consecutive Months

Cristen Hemingway Jaynes / EcoWatch
2024 on Track to Be Hottest Year Ever Recorded as Global Average Temperature Rises Above 1.5°C for 12 Consecutive Months Extreme weather events like heatwaves have increased in frequency and intensity partly due to climate change. (photo: NOAA)

The global average temperature for the period June 2023 to May 2024 — 12 consecutive months — was 1.63 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial average, making it the hottest on record, according to new data from the Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S). It was also the longest stretch above the 1.5-degree threshold of the Paris Agreement.

In May, the average ocean surface temperature was 69.6 degrees Fahrenheit, the warmest ever recorded for the month. It was the fourteenth record-setting month in a row for sea surface temperatures.

“The climate continues to alarm us – the last 12 months have broken records like never before – caused primarily by our greenhouse gas emissions and an added boost from the El Niño event in the tropical Pacific. Until we reach net-zero global emissions the climate will continue to warm, will continue to break records, and will continue to produce ever more extreme weather events,” said Samantha Burgess, C3S deputy director, in a press release from C3S. “If we choose to continue to add greenhouse gases to the atmosphere then 2023/4 will soon look like a cool year, in a similar way to how 2015/6 now appears.”

The findings do not necessarily mean the Paris Agreement goal of global heating not exceeding 1.5 degrees Celsius above the average for pre-industrial times has been breached, as this target is measured by averages over decades rather than single years. However, the trend does mean more extreme heat and climate-fueled weather events, as well as the risk of disastrous tipping points.

C3S Director Carlo Buontempo said the data indicated a “large and continuing shift,” in the world’s climate, reported The Guardian.

“Even if this specific streak of extremes ends at some point, we are bound to see new records being broken as the climate continues to warm,” Buontempo said. “This is inevitable unless we stop adding greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and the oceans.”

In the northern parts of the globe, temperatures in Europe were the most above average, while parts of the southeast and southwest of the continent, including Russia, saw below average temperatures, the press release said.

The data suggest this year could be hotter than 2023, which was the hottest on record.

“I now estimate that there is an approximately 95% chance that 2024 beats 2023 to be the warmest year since global surface temperature records began in the mid-1800s,” said Zeke Hausfather, a Berkeley Earth research scientist, as Reuters reported.

In a rapidly warming world, some ecosystems suffer more than others. In the latest review by the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, scientists found that warming of 1.5 degrees Celsius and above will decimate 70 to 90 percent of coral reefs in the tropics, reported The Guardian.

“It is not 1.5C or death – every 0.1C matters a great deal because we’re talking about global average temperatures, which translate into massive temperature gaps locally,” said François Gemenne, an IPCC author and the director of University of Liège’s Hugo Observatory, as The Guardian reported.

Gemenne added that, even if the world experiences the best possible warming scenario, people must “beef up” their response tactics.

“Adaptation is not an admission that our current efforts are useless,” Gemenne said.

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