Earth just had its hottest January in history – here’s what it means

Earth just had its hottest January in history – here’s what it means
Average global temperature 2.5F above 20th-century average (Photo: Shutterstock)

Last month was the hottest January ever recorded on earth, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The average temperature across land and ocean surfaces in January was the highest in NOAA’s 141 years of climate records, exceeding the 20th-century average by 2.05 degrees F (1.14 degrees C).

The record temperatures in January follow an exceptionally warm 2019, which has been ranked as the second hottest year for the planet’s surface since reliable measurements started.

String of climate records

This milestone is just the latest in a string of climate records set in recent years.

Russia, Scandinavia and eastern Canada experienced the most dramatic warmer-than-usual conditions last month, with some of these regions seeing temperatures at least 9 degrees F (5 degrees C) above average.

The warm temperatures shrank Arctic sea ice to its eighth lowest January extent, with satellite records showing that Arctic sea ice coverage last month was 5.27 million square miles, or 5.3 percent below average.

Antarctic sea ice coverage also suffered, with its extent mapped at 1.74 million square miles, which is 9.8 percent below average.

New records for Antarctica

Meanwhile Antarctica has started February reaching record temperatures above 20 degrees C (68 degrees F) following another previous high of 18.3C just three days previously. Scientists called the readings “incredible and abnormal”.

Scientists at the National Centers for Environmental Information also projected that, based on statistical analyses, 2020 is likely to rank among the five warmest years on record.

According to The Guardian the world’s governments agreed in 2015 to keep the global temperature increase to well below 2C, in order to stave off disastrous flooding, food insecurity, heatwaves and mass displacement of people.

Scientists warn that the world must half its emissions by 2030 to stand any chance of avoiding disastrous climate breakdown.