In a significant climate update, scientists from the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) have announced a one-in-three chance that 2024 might be a year of record heat, potentially surpassing 2023 as the hottest year on record. This forecast, issued on Friday, aligns with the observations of European Union scientists, who have confirmed that 2023 was the warmest year since record-keeping began in 1850.
The NOAA’s annual global climate analysis has brought to light a concerning trend: a significant 1.35°C rise above the preindustrial average in 2023. This increase in temperature aligns with the prediction that 2024 might be a year of record heat. Additionally, last year saw the highest amount of heat ever recorded in the ocean’s upper layers, contributing to the acceleration of global warming.
Corroborating NOAA’s findings, the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) also affirmed that 2023 was a record-breaking year, with the world warming 1.2°C above the preindustrial average. This temperature rise is attributed to climate change, primarily driven by fossil fuel emissions, and compounded by an El Niño climate pattern emerging mid-year. El Niño, characterized by warmer surface waters in the eastern Pacific Ocean, contributes to higher global temperatures.
The persistence of El Niño is expected to last until at least April 2024, raising the probability of another record-setting year. Christopher Hewitt, the WMO head of international climate services, expressed uncertainty about the temperature trends in 2024 but acknowledged the significant possibility of warmer than in 2023. NOAA’s forecasts suggest a 99% chance that 2024 will be among the top five warmest years recorded.
El Niño’s impacts typically peak during the Northern Hemisphere’s winter and then diminish, potentially transitioning to neutral conditions or a La Niña phase, which usually leads to cooler global temperatures. However, there is still a risk of El Niño’s return later in the year.
Authorities, particularly in the Southern Hemisphere, are on high alert for heatwaves, droughts, and fires, given the ongoing El Niño phase. Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology has already issued extreme heat alerts for Western Australia this week. In southern Africa, concerns are mounting over dry spells and potential below-average rainfall, with over 20 million people estimated to require emergency food assistance, according to Lark Walters, a decision support adviser for the Famine Early Warning System Network.
This latest climate analysis underscores the urgent need for global actions against climate change and highlights the increasing frequency of extreme weather events impacting communities worldwide.