March sets record for global heat, continuing a 10-month streak

The European Union’s climate change monitoring arm reported that the world has experienced its warmest March on record, marking a continuous 10-month period where each month has set a new temperature record, the Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S) announced Tuesday.

This latest streak saw each of the past 10 months surpassing previous records for warmth compared with the same months in prior years, according to a monthly bulletin from C3S.

Furthermore, the 12-month period ending in March has been identified as the hottest 12-month stretch ever recorded on Earth, C3S revealed. From April 2023 to March 2024, the global average temperature was 1.58 degrees Celsius (2.84 degrees Fahrenheit) above the pre-industrial average spanning 1850-1900.

“It’s the long-term trend alongside these exceptional records that has us very concerned,” Samantha Burgess, Deputy Director of C3S, told Reuters. “This consistent breaking of records shows us how rapidly and significantly our climate is changing,” she emphasized.

C3S, with data tracing back to 1940, collaborated with other datasets to verify that the past March was indeed the hottest since pre-industrial times. Notably, 2023 is already on record as the planet’s hottest year since records began in 1850.

The year has been marked by extreme weather and unprecedented temperatures, including a record number of wildfires in Venezuela’s Amazon region from January to March, due to drought, and severe droughts in Southern Africa leading to crop failures and widespread hunger.

Marine scientists last month also signaled a probable massive coral bleaching event in the Southern Hemisphere, exacerbated by warming waters, potentially the worst ever recorded.

C3S attributes the extraordinary heat primarily to human-caused greenhouse gas emissions, with El Niño—a weather pattern known for warming eastern Pacific Ocean surface waters—also contributing to the rise in temperatures.

While El Niño reached its peak between December and January and is now weakening, which might reduce the heat levels later in the year, the average sea surface temperature in March still set a record high for any month, and marine air temperatures remained exceptionally high, according to C3S.

“The main driver of the warming is fossil fuel emissions,” stated Friederike Otto, a climate scientist at Imperial College London’s Grantham Institute. Otto warned that continued failure to cut these emissions will lead to further global warming, causing more severe droughts, wildfires, heatwaves, and heavy rainfall events.