A blazing month-long heatwave has brought drought in Vietnam

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The world has recorded its hottest ever March, extending a streak of global temperature records that began in June 2023.

“March 2024 continues the sequence of climate records toppling for both air temperature and ocean surface temperatures, with the 10th consecutive record-breaking month,” Samantha Burgess at the Copernicus Climate Change Service said in a statement. It is the latest indication that Earth’s climate has entered uncharted territory.

The average surface air temperature was 14.14°C in March, 0.1°C above the previous high set in March 2016 and 1.68°C warmer than in pre-industrial times, Copernicus said in its latest climate bulletin.

Over the past 12 months, global average temperatures have tracked 1.58°C above the 1850 to 1900 average, the period used to represent pre-industrial levels.

Countries have collectively promised to limit the temperature rise to 1.5°C above this pre-industrial average.

One single year above this level won’t represent a breach of this promise, as the target is based on a long-term average. But each record-breaking year makes shooting past this goal ever more likely.


The unprecedented run of high temperatures in 2023 and 2024 has coincided with alarming climate impacts, from severe marine heatwaves to rapid glacier melt and intense tropical cyclones.

Human-caused greenhouse gas emissions are responsible for rising global temperatures. The latest spell of record-breaking warmth is also partly driven by El Niño, a natural weather pattern where sea temperatures in the Pacific Ocean are warmer than usual.

Global rules introduced in 2020 to cut aerosol pollution from ships may also be playing a role. Aerosols enable clouds to reflect more of the sun’s light and heat back out of the atmosphere. Reducing aerosol emissions improves air quality, but increases the amount of warmth entering the atmosphere.

Aerosols may provide short-term cooling benefits, but decarbonising the global economy is the only long-term strategy to halt climate change, scientists stress. “Stopping further warming requires rapid reductions in greenhouse gas emissions,” said Burgess.


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