According to data released by the Copernicus Climate Change Service, global surface temperatures in March were 0.1C higher than the previous record for the month, set in 2016, and 1.68C higher than the pre-industrial average.

This is the 10th consecutive monthly record in a warming phase that has shattered all previous records. Over the past 12 months, average global temperatures have been 1.58C above pre-industrial levels.

This, at least temporarily, exceeds the 1.5C benchmark set as a target in the Paris climate agreement but that landmark deal will not be considered breached unless this trend continues on a decadal scale.

Covered in The Guardian, which quotes Gavin Schmidt, the director of Nasa’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, who noted that temperature records are being broken each month by up to 0.2C. “It’s humbling, and a bit worrying, to admit that no year has confounded climate scientists’ predictive capabilities more than 2023 has,” the successor to Jim Hansen wrote in a recent article for Nature.

Schmidt listed several plausible causes of the anomaly – the El Niño effect, reductions in cooling sulphur dioxide particles due to pollution controls, fallout from the January 2022 Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcanic eruption in Tonga, and the ramping up of solar activity in the run-up to a predicted solar maximum.

But based on preliminary analyses, he said these factors were not sufficient to account for the 0.2C increase: “If the anomaly does not stabilise by August – a reasonable expectation based on previous El Niño events – then the world will be in uncharted territory. It could imply that a warming planet is already fundamentally altering how the climate system operates, much sooner than scientists had anticipated.”

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