Hottest February on record is ninth straight month of historic high temperatures

Europe’s climate monitor has said that last month was the warmest February on record and warns that climate change is bringing the world into “uncharted territory”, with the ninth straight month of historic high temperatures globally.

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Temperatures increased across large parts of the world, with Europe also registering its second warmest winter on record, according to the Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S) service in its monthly update on Thursday.

Daily global temperatures were “exceptionally high” in the first half of the month, Copernicus said, with four consecutive days registering averages 2C higher than pre-industrial times.

Overall the month was 1.77C warmer than the monthly estimate for 1850-1900, the pre-industrial reference period.

Breaking through 1.5C?

This is notably higher than the limit agreed in the 2015 Paris climate deal of “well below” 2C and preferably 1.5C, but it is not yet a breach of the agreement, as the increase is is measured as an average over decades and not months.

Last month the monitor said that the period from February 2023 to January 2024 marked the first time Earth had endured 12 consecutive months of temperatures 1.5 degrees Celsius hotter than the pre-industrial era.

The temperatures have been driven up by human-caused climate change, caused by the burning of fossil fuels, which continues to rise, and, intensified by the naturally-occurring El Nino, which warms the southern Pacific ocean, leading to hotter weather globally.

‘Uncharted territory’

Increased temperatures have caused extreme weather events and disasters, including strong storms and flooding in some areas, and drought and fire in others.

“Our civilisation has never had to cope with this climate,” C3S director Carlo Buontempo told AFP. “In that sense, I think the definition of uncharted territory is appropriate.”

Record high ocean temperature

Along with high temperatures on land, the oceans have also warmed alarmingly, with sea surface temperatures the highest in February for any month on record at over 21C at the end of the month, according to Copernicus.

Oceans, which cover over 70 percent of the planet, have absorbed most excess heat produced by human carbon emissions since the start of the industrial era.

But their warming disrupts the mixing of nutrients and oxygen that are key to supporting life and can potentially alter their crucial role in absorbing carbon, creating what scientists have warned is a negative feedback loop .

Sea surface warming also sends more moisture into the atmosphere, causing increasingly strong rains and winds.

(with AFP)

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