The Earth’s surface was warmer last month than during any September on record, with temperatures since January tracking those of the hottest ever calendar year in 2016, the EU’s Earth Observation Programme said yesterday.
This year has now seen three months of record warmth — January, May and last month — with June and April virtually tied for first place, the Copernicus Climate Change Service reported.
“There is currently little difference between 2020 and 2016 for the year to date,” Copernicus senior scientist Freja Vambourg said.
For the 12-month period through last month, the planet was nearly 1.3°C above preindustrial levels.
That is alarmingly close to the 1.5°C threshold for severe impacts detailed in a major 2018 report by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
The Paris Agreement has enjoined nations to cap global warming at “well below” 2°C, and 1.5°C if feasible.
So far, Earth has warmed on average by 1°C, enough to boost the intensity of deadly heat waves, droughts and tropical storms, made more destructive by rising seas.
Climate change driven by greenhouse gas emissions from burning fossil fuels has picked up pace. Nineteen of the past 20 years are the warmest since accurate readings began in the late 19th century.
Since the late 1970s, the global thermometer has crept up 0.2°C every decade, EU data showed.
Temperatures last month were “exceptionally high” over northern Siberia, which — along with much of the Arctic Circle — has seen freakishly warm weather for months.
“September was warmer by 0.05°C than September 2019, the previous warmest September,” the Copernicus report said.
Last month’s global record for heat was all the more remarkable because of the regional cooling effect of a naturally occurring La Nina weather event over the tropical Pacific.
Meanwhile, Arctic sea ice last month shrank to its second-lowest extent, slipping below 4 million square kilometers for only the second time since satellite records began in 1978, Copernicus said.
The Arctic ice cap floats on the ocean surrounding the North Pole and therefore does not contribute directly to sea level rise when it melts, but it does accelerate global warming.
Freshly fallen snow reflects 80 percent of the sun’s radiative force back into space, but when that mirror-like surface is replaced by deep blue water, about the same percentage of energy is absorbed.
Climate change has also disrupted regional weather patterns, resulting in more sunshine beating down on the Greenland ice sheet, which is melting — and shedding mass into the ocean — more quickly than at any time in the past 12,000 years, according to a study last week.
The ice sheet — which holds enough frozen water to lift global oceans 7m — last year shed more than 500 billion tonnes, roughly equivalent to 3 million tonnes of water every day, or six Olympic swimming pools every second.
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