PARIS (AFP) – Last month was the warmest January on record globally, while in Europe temperatures were a balmy 3 degrees Celsius above the average January from 1981 to 2010, the European Union’s climate monitoring system reported Tuesday.
Across a band of countries stretching from Norway to Russia, temperatures were an unprecedented 6C above the same 30-year benchmark, Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S) reported in a statement.
New temperature highs — monthly, yearly, decadal — have become commonplace due to the impact of climate change, caused mainly by the burning of fossil fuels, scientists say.
The five last years have been the hottest on record, as was the 10-year period 2010-19.
Year 2019 — the second warmest year — was only 0.04C below 2016, when temperatures were boosted by a powerful El Nino, a periodic natural weather phenomenon over the Pacific Ocean.
The global record last month was 0.03C above the preceding warmest January, also in 2016.
For Europe, last month was “about 0.2C warmer than the previous warmest January in 2007, and 3.1C warmer than the average January in the period 1981-2010,” C3S reported.
Records also tumbled in specific locations across the northern reaches of the continent.
The village of Sunndalsora in western Norway, for example, hit 19C (66 Fahrenheit) on January 2, more than 25C above the monthly average, while the Swedish town of Orebro saw its warmest January day on the 9th since records began in 1858.
Cross-country ski tracks were closed across large swathes of Norway and Sweden.
Exceptional above-average temperatures extended over nearly all of Russia as well, and they were higher than normal over much of the United States, eastern Canada, Japan and parts of eastern China.
Temperatures were likewise higher than normal in New South Wales in Australia, where massive bushfires devastated large areas of the state.
Atmospheric concentrations of CO2 — which causes global warming — are now at their highest level in at least 800,000 years.
The United Nations said last year that manmade greenhouse gas emissions needed to tumble 7.6 percent annually over the next decade to cap global warming at 1.5C above preindustrial levels, the aspirational goal set in the landmark Paris Agreement.
Current pledges to cut emissions put Earth on a path of several degrees warming by the end of the century.
By Marlowe Hood
© Agence France-Presse