Rising global temperatures near record highs: 2024 could be hottest year

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Global temperatures may soon push past a record high, with 2024 possibly becoming the world’s hottest year, the BBC reported on Thursday.

El Niño – a natural climate phenomenon marked by warmer-than-average sea surface temperature – has emerged in the Pacific Ocean and will gradually strengthen into the winter, the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said in an advisory on Thursday.

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The phenomenon occurs on average every 2-7 years in the central and eastern Pacific Ocean near the equator, but El Niño’s impacts on the climate extend far beyond the Pacific Ocean.

According to the NOAA, this can cause warm waters to surface and spread across oceans worldwide, pushing significant heat into the atmosphere.

“El Niño could lead to new records for temperatures, particularly in areas that already experience above-average temperatures,” said climate scientist Michelle L’Heureux, in the advisory.

“Depending on its strength, El Niño can cause a range of impacts, such as increasing the risk of heavy rainfall and droughts in certain locations around the world,” L’ Heureux added.

Scientists fear it will push the world past the warming milestone of 1.5C, affecting global weather conditions and causing anomalies like a weakened monsoon in India, drought conditions in Australia and more rainfall in the southern US.

A family walks with their goats and sheep in search of water during a El Nino-related drought in Marodijeex town of southern Hargeysa, in northern Somalia's semi-autonomous Somaliland region, April 7, 2016. (File photo: Reuters)
A family walks with their goats and sheep in search of water during a El Nino-related drought in Marodijeex town of southern Hargeysa, in northern Somalia's semi-autonomous Somaliland region, April 7, 2016. (File photo: Reuters)

Climate experts had been expecting an El Nino event for quite some time now.

“It’s ramping up now, there have been signs in our predictions for several months, but it’s looking like it will peak at the end of this year in terms of its intensity,” Adam Scaife, head of long-range predictions at the UK Met Office, was quoted as saying by the BBC.

“A new record for global temperature next year is definitely plausible. It depends how big the El Niño turns out to be – a big El Niño at the end of this year, gives a high chance that we will have a new record, global temperature in 2024.”

Scientists in the US flag the presence of an El Niño when the ocean temperature is 0.5C hotter than usual for one month, and the atmosphere must be seen responding to the persisting heat.

These conditions were met in the month of May. In a statement, the NOAA said, “El Niño conditions are present.”

“This is a very weak signal. But we believe that we’re starting to see these conditions and that they will continue to intensify,” L’Heureux was quoted as saying by the BBC.

“Our weekly value is actually 0.8C this past week, which is even stronger.”

An El Niño is the most powerful natural phenomenon in the Earth’s climate system.

Some of the famous El Niños in the past have been so strong that entire villages have slid down mountainsides. In 1972-73, ocean temperatures skyrocketed off the Peruvian coast, nearly wiping out Peru’s critical Anchoveta fishing industry. And in 2016, corals were bleached across the Pacific, floods ravaged South America, and drought-fuelled fires ripped across Australia.

Firefighters retreat as flames approach, amid the Grizzly Wildfire Complex, in East Prairie Metis Settlement, Alberta, Canada May 19, 2023 in this still image obtained from social media video. (File photo;Reuters)
Firefighters retreat as flames approach, amid the Grizzly Wildfire Complex, in East Prairie Metis Settlement, Alberta, Canada May 19, 2023 in this still image obtained from social media video. (File photo;Reuters)

Record warm years, including the world’s hottest in 2016, usually happen the year after a powerful El Niño event. There’s also a strong likelihood that this year’s version will push 2024 past 2016 as the world’s hottest year.

History shows that there is always a huge human and economic cost to this forthcoming weather event.

Global temperatures are currently oscillating around 1.1C above the average from 1850-1900.

However, an El Nino could add up to another 0.2C to world temperature, pushing humankind to face weather conditions that have never been encountered before.

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