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Earth just had its warmest March on record » Yale Climate Connections

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The third month of 2024 was Earth’s warmest March since global record-keeping began in 1850, NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information, or NCEI, reported April 12. 

Global weather agencies were in agreement on the March record. NASA placed March at 1.62 degrees Celsius (3.01 °F) above the 1880-1899 period, its best estimate for when preindustrial temperatures last occurred. This beat the previous record from March 2016 by 0.04 degrees Celsius (0.07 °F). March 2024 had the fourth-greatest departure from average of any month in the NASA database, behind September 2023, February 2024, and November 2023.

The European Copernicus Climate Change Service also rated March 2024 as the warmest March on record and said that the global average temperature for the past 12 months (April 2023 — March 2024) was the highest on record for any 12-month period, 1.58 degrees Celsius above the 1850-1900 preindustrial average. 

Figure 1. Departure of temperature from average for March 2024, the world’s warmest March since record-keeping began in 1850. Record warm temperatures covered 10.8% of the world’s surface. (Image credit: NOAA/NCEI)

Land areas had their fourth-warmest March on record in 2024, according to NOAA, and for the 12th consecutive month, global ocean temperatures were the warmest on record. The record heat in the Southern Hemisphere oceans has brought the worst coral bleaching and mortality event in recorded history to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef (see tweet below) as inferred from degree heating week, or DHW data, which is directly related to bleaching. Brazil’s reefs are also experiencing their worst DHW conditions on record.

It was the warmest March on record for South America and Africa and the second-warmest for Europe. Asia had its 12th-warmest March and Oceania its 17th-warmest March on record. North America had its ninth-warmest March. The contiguous U.S. posted its 17th-warmest with 11 states experiencing a top-10 warmest March. No states had below-average temperatures.

The January-March global surface temperature ranked warmest in NOAA’s 175-year record. According to NOAA/NCEI’s statistical analysis, there is a 55% chance that 2024 will rank as the warmest year on record and greater than a 99% chance that it will rank in the top five.

El Niño weakens; La Niña expected by summer

The El Niño event in the Eastern Pacific weakened during March, NOAA reported in its April monthly discussion of the state of the El Niño/Southern Oscillation, or ENSO. Neutral conditions are expected to emerge by the late spring in the Northern Hemisphere (85% chance for April-May-June), with a 60% chance of La Niña emerging in summer (June-July-August). The subsurface waters of the equatorial Pacific are already cooler than average, and an area of below-average sea surface temperatures has emerged in the far eastern tropical Pacific.

Long-range ENSO predictions are typically not reliable until after northern spring, but there is enhanced predictability in the wake of a strong El Niño event. There is also some climatological support: In records going back to 1950, all four of the El Niño events that were as strong as the 2023-24 event transitioned to La Niña conditions in the following year.

For the climatological peak of the upcoming Atlantic hurricane season (August-September-October), the April forecast from NOAA and Columbia University’s International Research Institute for Climate and Society calls for an 80% chance of La Niña, a 19% chance of ENSO-neutral, and a mere 1% chance of El Niño. El Niño conditions tend to suppress Atlantic hurricane activity through an increase in wind shear, but La Niña conditions tend to have the opposite effect.

Arctic sea ice: 15th-lowest March extent on record

Arctic sea ice extent during March 2024 was the 15th-lowest in the 46-year satellite record, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center, or NSIDC, and reached its annual maximum on March 14. Though is it heartening to see Arctic sea ice not at record lows, the ice is quite thin and has the fourth-lowest volume on record (see tweet below). There is currently less multiyear ice than in 2023, and the oldest ice (greater than four years old) is slightly lower than last year and has been at very low levels since 2012.

Antarctic sea ice extent in March was the fifth-lowest on record and reached its seasonal minimum on February 21, ending up as tied with 2022 for second-lowest in the satellite data record, falling just short of the record set in 2023. Thus, the last three years are the three lowest in the 46-year record.

Notable global heat and cold marks for March 2024

The information below is courtesy of Maximiliano Herrera. Follow him on Twitter: @extremetemps:

– Hottest temperature in the Northern Hemisphere: 46.5°C (115.7°F) at El Pujal, Mar. 8;
– Coldest temperature in the Northern Hemisphere: -58.5°C (-73.3°F) at Summit, Greenland, Mar. 18;
– Hottest temperature in the Southern Hemisphere: 47.2°C (117.0°F) at Vioolsdrif, South Africa, Mar. 11; and
– Coldest temperature in the Southern Hemisphere: -73.4°C (-100.1°F) at Concordia, Antarctica, Mar. 31.

Major weather stations in March: 19 all-time heat records, no all-time cold records

Among global stations with a record of at least 40 years, 19 set, not just tied, an all-time heat record in March; no stations set an all-time cold record:

Anaityum (Vanuatu) max. 34.9°C, Mar. 4;
Hahaya Airport (Comoros) max. 36.2°C, Mar. 12: New national record high for Comoros;
Impfondo (Congo Brazzaville) max. 39.6°C, Mar. 13: New national record high for Congo Brazzaville;
Gamboma (Congo Brazzaville) max. 38.0°C, Mar. 13;
Makoua (Congo Brazzaville) max. 38.0°C, Mar. 13;
Tamale (Ghana) max. 43.3°C, Mar. 16;
Wa (Ghana) max. 42.6°C, Mar. 16;
Cerro Huacalito (Costa Rica) max. 41.5°C, Mar. 23: New national record high for Costa Rica;
Hanimadhoo (Maldives) max. 35.1°C, Mar. 24: New national record high for Maldives;
Catacamas (Honduras) max. 39.9°C, Mar. 26;
Huehuetenango (Guatemala) max. 35.4°C, Mar. 26;
Rivas (Nicaragua) max. 37.0°C, Mar. 27;
Phuket (Thailand) max. 39.3°C, Mar. 28;
Koutiana (Mali) max. 43.5 °C, Mar. 29;
Mango (Togo) max. 44.0°C, Mar. 31:  New national record high for Togo;
Boromo (Burkina Faso) max. 44.5°C, Mar. 31;
Ouagadougou (Burkina Faso) max. 44.5°C, Mar. 31;
Gaoua (Burkina Faso) max. 42.6°C, Mar. 31; and
Po (Burkina Faso) max. 43.7°C, Mar. 31.

Six all-time national/territorial heat record beaten or tied as of the end of March

Cocos Islands (Australia): 32.8°C (91.0°F), Feb. 28 and Feb. 29 (tie);
Comoros: 36.2°C (97.2°F) at Hahaya Airport, Mar. 12;
Congo Brazzaville: 39.6°C (103.3°F) at Impfondo, Mar. 13;
Costa Rica: 41.0°C (105.8°F) at Cerro Huacalito, Mar. 6; broken again with 41.5°C, Mar. 23, at the same location;
Maldives: 35.1°C (95.2°F) at Hanimadhoo, Mar. 24; and
Togo: 44.0°C (111.2°F) at Mango, Mar. 31.

Thirty-three monthly national/territorial heat records beaten or tied as of the end of March

In addition to the six all-time national/territorial records set so far in 2024, 57 nations or territories have set monthly all-time heat records in 2024, for a total of 63 such records:

– Jan. (15): Mayotte, Dominica, Saba, Cocos Islands, Malta, Hong Kong, Ivory Coast, Maldives, Andorra, Portugal, Costa Rica, UK, Seychelles, Martinique, St. Barthelemy
– Feb. (18): Maldives, French Guiana, Guyana, Dominica, Curacao, St. Kitts and Nevis, Antigua and Barbuda, U.S. Virgin Islands, Belize, North Korea, Morocco, French Southern Territories, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Peru, Laos, Chad, Togo
– Mar. (24): Paraguay, Samoa, Zimbabwe, Dominica, Cameroon, Ghana, Guyana, French Guiana, Dominican Republic, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Saba, British Indian Ocean Territories, Solomon Islands, Suriname, Guatemala, Croatia, Poland, Belarus, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Benin, Burkina Faso

Two monthly national/territorial cold records beaten or tied as of the end of March

China set an all-time cold record for the month of February.
Qatar set an all-time cold record for the month of March.

Hemispherical and continental temperature records in 2024

– Highest minimum temperature ever recorded in January in Asia: 28.5°C (83.3°F) at Bangkok Klong Thoey, Thailand, Jan. 14
– Highest minimum temperature ever recorded in February in Asia: 29.1°C (84.1°F) at Diego Garcia (British Indian Territories), Feb. 18
– Highest minimum temperature ever recorded in March in South America: 31.6°C (88.9°F) at Mariscal Estigarribia, Paraguay, Mar. 17

Bob Henson contributed to this post.


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