The planet is having a record April, as scientists warn that 2024 could break heat records for the second year in a row


Extraordinary global heat continues its streak. Last month, the world experienced the hottest April on record, according to new data from Copernicus, the European Union’s climate monitoring service.

This marks 11 consecutive months of unprecedented global temperatures. With this new data, some scientists are warning that there is a good chance that 2024 will beat 2023 as the hottest year on record.

Last month was 1.58 degrees Celsius warmer than the average April before industrialization and 0.67 degrees warmer than the average April between 1991 and 2020, Copernicus found .

The consequences were brutal. Swathes of Asia are grappling with deadly heat: schools closed for millions of children in Bangladesh, rice fields shriveled in Vietnam, and Indians battled 110-degree Fahrenheit temperatures to vote during recent elections.

Global ocean heat in April also broke a record for the 13th consecutive month. Ocean surface temperatures reached 21.04 degrees, the highest on record in April, and just a fraction below the global record set in March, according to Copernicus data.

The impact on marine systems is devastating. Massive coral bleaching occurred this spring, which scientists said at the time could be the worst on record.

Unprecedented global heat is being driven by the long-term trend of global warming – primarily caused by human consumption of fossil fuels – amplified by El Niño, a natural climate pattern that tends to impact warming.

El Niño is now weakening, but it’s no surprise that the world is still facing unprecedented heat, said Zeke Hausfather, head of climate research at Stripe and a research scientist at Berkeley Earth.

The year following the peak of El Niño is generally the warmest. And even though heat records continue to be set month after month, the margins by which they are broken are smaller than they were in 2023.

The current heat “is much more expected than the record breaking of 0.3 to 0.5 degrees that we experienced in the second half of 2023,” Hausfather told CNN.

Hausfather estimates there is a 66% chance that 2024 will be the hottest year on record, and a 99% chance that it will be the second hottest year. The current best estimate is that it will reach just over 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels, he said.

Countries agreed to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels. Although this is long-term warming over decades, rather than a single month or year, scientists say these temporary breaks are a clear and alarming signal of accelerating climate change.

What happens in the coming months will help scientists understand whether the unexpectedly high temperatures of 2023 were a temporary phenomenon, “or a sign of something new that could lead to faster warming than expected,” Hausfather said.

“If global temperatures exceed records over the next couple of months, it will be a reassuring sign that the climate is behaving a little more predictably,” he added.

But, he warned, even if that happened, the world is still on track for warming of nearly 3 degrees, which would have catastrophic consequences.

As natural climate cycles like El Niño come and go, “increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases will continue to push global temperatures to new records,” said Carlo Buontempo, director of Copernicus.

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