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Global Warming

March broke temperature records for tenth month in a row as western Europe saw heavy rainfall

The month was wetter than average in most of western Europe and warmer than average around the world.

LAST MONTH WAS the hottest March of modern records – the tenth month in a row to reach historic levels of heat for the respective time in the year, according to the EU’s climate monitoring service.

The EU’s Copernicus Climate Change Service’s (C3S) latest monthly report details above average heat on land and at sea in March 2024 and points to the need for humans to significantly and quickly reduce greenhouse gas emissions that are trapping heat inside the atmosphere.

Globally, March was 1.68 degrees Celsius hotter than an average March between the years 1850-1900, which is the reference period for the pre-industrial era.

Deputy Director of Copernicus Climate Service (C3S) Samantha Burgess said that March 2024 “continues the sequence of climate records toppling for both air temperature and ocean surface temperatures, with the 10th consecutive record-breaking month”.

“The global average temperature is the highest on record, with the past 12 months being 1.58°C above pre-industrial levels. Stopping further warming requires rapid reductions in greenhouse gas emissions,” Burgess said.

That level of temperature rise puts the world dangerously close to breaching the 1.5 degree target limit set by countries in the Paris Agreement, but it’s not official yet that it’s been broken as it will be considered in terms of the average over multiple years rather than a single month.

The average European temperature last month was 2.12°C above the 1991-2020 average for March, making it the second warmest March on record for Europe, slightly behind March 2014.

Beyond Europe, temperatures were most above average over eastern North America, Greenland, eastern Russia, Central America, some areas of of South America, many areas of Africa,  southern Australia, and areas of Antarctica.

Sea surface temperatures between the 60th latitudes north and south of the equator were an average of 21.07°C, the highest monthly value on record, surpassing temperatures of 21.06°C recorded for February. 

Oceans cover 70% of the planet and have been crucial to keeping Earth’s surface liveable by absorbing 90% of the excess heat caused by greenhouse gas emissions. However, hotter oceans mean more moisture is held in the atmosphere, which leads to extreme weather events like storms and flooding.

Arctic sea ice extent was slightly below average but at its highest level for March since 2013, while Antarctic sea ice was 20% below average, the sixth lowest on record for March.

The month was wetter than average in most of western Europe, with storms causing heavy rainfall over the Iberian Peninsula and southern France. It was also wetter than average in regions of Scandinavia and north-western Russia, the Copernicus report said.

In Ireland, Met Éireann observed high levels of rainfall that negatively affected farmers. 

Other areas of Europe, though, were drier than average, with below-average precipitation over north-western Norway in particular.

Australia experienced an “exceptionally wet month”.

Additional reporting by AFP

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