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'Trajectory Is Not In The Right Direction': World Experiences Hottest March Ever, Scientists 'Very Concerned'

The European Union's Copernicus Climate Change Service said global average temperature recorded in March was 1.68°C warmer than the pre-industrial average.

March 2024 hottest ever
A fighting cock closes his eyes as it receives a bath from his owner to cool him down during a hot morning in Quezon city, Philippines on April 2, 2024. Photo: AP/Aaron Favila
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From Australia to North America and from Greenland to Antarctica, temperature records tumbled once again in March as the third calendar month of 2024 turned out to be the hottest March ever on record. March was also the tenth warmest month in succession with the streak beginning in June last year. This means that barring April and May (so far), every other month of the year has recorded its highest temperature ever since the 1850-1900 pre-industrial era, in just two years (2023 and 2024). And with the current phase of Earth's warming that we are witnessing, it cannot be said whether these records will not be surpassed again in the months to come.

As per the European Union's Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S), global average temperature recorded in March was 1.68°C warmer than the pre-industrial average. If the twelve-month period since April 2023 is to be considered, then the global average temperature was the highest ever on record, settling 1.58°C above the 1850-1900 pre-industrial average.

A man and woman play on the beach as other people enjoy the sea during a hot day in southern coastal city of Larnaca on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus, Sunday, March 31, 2024.
A man and woman play on the beach as other people enjoy the sea during a hot day in southern coastal city of Larnaca on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus, Sunday, March 31, 2024. Photo: AP/Petros Karadjias
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While the warming of the planet was expected due to El Niño, a climate pattern that causes warming of the central Pacific and alters global weather patterns, the unusually high temperatures recorded late last year are what have baffled scientists. The ongoing El Niño is now weakening and should likely end in the next couple of months. Further, as per predictions, this could be replaced by a full La Niña cool phase later this year.

C3S also noted that while El Niño continues to weaken in the eastern equatorial Pacific, the marine air temperatures in general have stayed at an unusually high level. As per the European climate agency's update, global sea surface temperature average was 21.07°C in March, the highest monthly value on record.

Scientists say a rapid reduction in global greenhouse gas emissions is required to subside, if not completely stop, this unprecedented warming of the planet.

"The trajectory will not change until concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere stop rising, which means we must stop burning fossil fuels, stop deforestation, and grow our food more sustainably as quickly as possible," said Jennifer Francis, scientist at the Woodwell Climate Research Center, as per The Associated Press.

A woman uses tissue paper rolls to shield her from the scorching sun as she crosses a street in Quezon city, Philippines on Tuesday, April 2, 2024.
A woman uses tissue paper rolls to shield her from the scorching sun as she crosses a street in Quezon city, Philippines on Tuesday, April 2, 2024. Photo: AP/Aaron Favila
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Samantha Burgess, Deputy Director of C3S, noted: “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 pointed out that March's temperature wasn't as exceptional as was recorded in some other months in the past year. "We've had record-breaking months that have been even more unusual," she said, referring to February 2024 and September 2023. She, however, noted with concern that the "trajectory is not in the right direction".

"It's the long-term trend with exceptional records that has us very concerned. Seeing records like this - month in, month out - really shows us that our climate is changing, is changing rapidly," Burgess told Reuters.

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