This February is on track to become the hottest ever recorded, as scientists warn the planet is warming at an “accelerating” rate.
Data from the Climate Change Institute at the American University of Maine shows that the first eight days of the month have already broken records and, if the rise in temperatures continues, it will be the warmest February on record.
It comes as countries around the world have experienced unusually high temperatures for this time of year.
South Africa, where it is summer at this time of year, is suffering from a sweltering heatwave with temperatures exceeding 30°C.
A heat wave warning has been issued across the country, warning residents that extremely hot and uncomfortable conditions are expected to persist from Thursday into the weekend.
Temperatures are expected to reach peak levels and reports say it is expected to cause health risks for vulnerable people.
CHILE: Forest fires devastate the world in an unusually hot February
CHILE: Forest fires have raged this month as residents of the Quilpe commune, Valparaíso region, do everything they can to clean up the damage.
In Victoria, Australia, where it is also summer, rising temperatures have sparked wildfires.
Emergency warnings have been issued over fires burning in and around the Grampians National Park, and some communities have been asked to take shelter.
Earlier in the week, when wildfire warnings emerged, officials told residents in danger zones that they needed to act immediately to survive.
Some were told it was too late to leave and to instead take shelter from the devastating fires.
Meanwhile, the UK is experiencing extremely high temperatures for this time of year. They have been the warmest first eight days on record.
A high of 18C is not far off the hottest February day ever, which was 20.6C in 2019.
It’s not just the air that is warming: the sea is also breaking records: it is almost a degree warmer than the 1982-2011 average.
Meteorology expert Dr Joel Hirschi, associate head of marine systems modeling at the UK’s National Oceanography Centre, said the pace of warming is “accelerating”.
He said: ‘The planet is warming at an accelerated rate.
MOROCCO: Farmers in countries around the world are experiencing huge periods of drought. In Morocco, 12 weather stations reached temperatures above 33.9 degrees Celsius, five degrees higher than the average for July (in February).
AUSTRALIA: Emergency warnings have been issued over fires burning in and around the Grampians National Park, and some communities have been asked to take shelter. The temperature reached 35c.
“We are seeing rapid temperature increases in the ocean, the climate’s largest reservoir of heat.”
“The extent to which previous sea surface temperature records were broken in 2023 and now 2024 exceeds expectations, although understanding why this is the case is the subject of ongoing research.”
According to Earth scientist Zeke Hausfather, each month has been the warmest on record since last May.
The effects are being felt around the world.
Maximiliano Herrera, a weather blogger, said recent heat records from weather stations have been “crazy.”
He guardian reports that in the last week, monitoring stations in South Africa, Saudi Arabia, Thailand, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Colombia, Japan, North Korea, Maldives and Belize recorded monthly heat records.
Herrera stated that in Morocco 12 meteorological stations reached temperatures above 33.9ºC in February, five degrees higher than the July average.
The stark warning comes just days after temperatures in Britain hit 18C.
The “exceptionally mild” winter weather had sun worshipers heading to the parks to bask in the warmth and enjoy an ice cream sundae or two.
It was also the hottest Valentine’s night ever recorded, with a nighttime temperature of 11.5ºC.
With warnings in effect and February looking to follow the record-breaking pattern of the past nine months, scientists now say it’s not just global warming that worries them, but also the unpredictability of a natural climate system.
GREAT BRITAIN: People step out in caps and sunglasses during record-breaking hot February
AUSTRALIA: A bushfire broke out in Victoria, Australia this month as temperatures soared to 35°C.
El Niño is a phenomenon in the Pacific Ocean where pressure changes cause warm water to flow eastward, bringing atmospheric heat with it. It occurs naturally every few years or so.
An El Niño is the opposite of El Niño and has a global cooling effect. An El Niña often follows an El Niño.
The planet is now in the midst of an El Niño, which is believed to have exaggerated the temperature increases being felt around the world.
The hope is that El Niña will arrive soon, bringing with it refreshing relief.
MADAGASCAR: The Indian Ocean island nation of Madagascar, the first to face food shortages linked to climate change, has experienced scant rainfall in recent months.
CALIFORNIA: Drought has caused water levels in reservoirs like this one to drop rapidly
FRANCE: Here, higher temperatures are said to be causing a stinging insect, the pine processionary caterpillar, which is harmful to the health of both humans and animals, to now infest almost all of mainland France.
However, according to Hausfather, climate behavior has become more erratic and more difficult to forecast.
As The Guardian reported, he said: “(Last year) defied expectations so much that it’s hard to be as confident in the approaches we’ve used to make these predictions in the past.”
The scientist said he predicts February will be the hottest on record.