Record temperatures expected to continue to drive extreme weather

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Record temperatures expected to continue to drive extreme weather

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Extreme weather events around the world are expected to continue due to high concentrations of greenhouse gases, scientists say, after April marked the 11th in a row at a record global average surface temperature for the month.

The temperature for the hottest April on record reached 15.03C, or 0.67C above the 1991-2020 average for the month and 1.58C above pre-industrial levels, according to the Copernicus Climate Change Service. 

Scientists say rising temperatures will lead to more extreme weather patterns globally, with heatwaves, droughts and flooding all becoming more common.

Large swaths of Asia are grappling with heatwaves that have driven temperatures as high as 48C in east Asia, while regions around the globe from southern China to Kenya and Brazil are dealing with fatal floods.

The global average temperature for the past 12 months was the highest on record at 1.61C above the pre-industrial average, Copernicus said. This temperature reading is distinct from the Paris Agreement to limit global temperature rises to ideally 1.5C, which is based on a longer timeframe.

The record temperatures come as the world also experiences the naturally occurring El Niño phenomenon, which results in a warming of sea surface temperatures in the Pacific.

The El Niño phenomenon peaked at the beginning of the year with the eastern tropical Pacific now going back to “neutral conditions”.

But the global sea surface temperature was still the highest on record for April at 21.04C, marking the 13th month in a row of record temperatures. 

“Whilst temperature variations associated with natural cycles like El Niño come and go, the extra energy trapped into the ocean and the atmosphere by increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases will keep pushing the global temperature towards new records,” Carlo Buontempo, director of CCCS noted.

April 2024 breaks temperature records for 11th consecutive month. Line chart showing Daily global 2-metre surface temperature anomaly, 1850-1900 baseline (C)

During the 2015-2016 El Niño event, the world experienced 16 consecutive months of record temperatures, although this past year’s temperatures have been even higher. 

Land temperatures were “most above average” in April in eastern Europe, northern and northeastern North America, Greenland, eastern Asia, north-west Middle East, parts of South America and most of Africa.

The majority of countries recorded above average temperatures for April. Beeswarm chart showing 2-metre surface temperature anomaly compared with 1991-2020 average, degrees Celsius. Georgia was the warmest with almost 5 degrees Celsius above average. Finland was the coolest with around 1.7 degrees Celsius below average

It was wetter than average for most of north-western, central and north-eastern Europe, as well as central, eastern and southern North America, across Central Asia, the Gulf countries, easternmost Asia, eastern Australia and southern Brazil.

The United Arab Emirates, which hosted the UN COP28 climate summit last year, was hit with extreme flash flooding in April, after experiencing the heaviest rainfall since records began 75 years ago. 

Brazil, which is preparing to host COP30 next year, is struggling with extreme flooding in the southern state of Rio Grande do Sul, which has killed 90 people and displaced more than 200,000.

Flooded area surrounding the Beira-Rio stadium of the Brazilian football team Internacional in Porto Alegre, Rio Grande do Sul state, Brazil,
Flooded area surrounding the Beira-Rio stadium of the Brazilian football team Internacional in Porto Alegre, Rio Grande do Sul state, Brazil, © Renan Mattos/Agencia RBS/ AFP/Getty Images

At the end of April, the state capital Porto Alegre had rainfall of more than 258mm in just three days, corresponding to about two months’ average rainfall during the season.

The Guaíba river, which runs by the city, has reached a record high of 5.3 metres. The previous record was 4.76 metres in 1941.

Flooding in Kenya has killed more than 200 people and displaced about 160,000 in recent weeks, while more than 100,000 people had to be evacuated from their homes in Guangdong, China, because of a massive deluge last month.

Sir David King, chair of the Climate Crisis Advisory Group of scientists, said the trend was “incredibly concerning”. “Despite El Niño weather patterns the record-breaking trends we are witnessing are highly unexpected.”

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