PARIS | September 2020 was the hottest September on record in the world, according to the European climate change service Copernicus, which hints at the possibility that 2020 dethrones 2016 as the hottest year.
The twelve month period from October 2019 to September 2020 is 1.28 ° C above pre-industrial temperatures. While the past five years have been the hottest on record, this figure puts the planet dangerously close to the ceiling set by the Paris Agreement.
The pact, concluded in 2015 by nearly 200 states that have committed to reducing their greenhouse gas emissions, aims to contain global warming below 1.5 ° C, or at worst 2 ° C, to limit the devastating impacts storms, droughts and other heat waves already at work.
But while the planet has already warmed by more than 1 ° C, it is still gaining an average of 0.2 ° C per decade since the late 1970s, insists Copernicus in its monthly climate report.
And 2020 is unlikely to turn the tide, with January, May and June already being the hottest.
“Globally, September 2020 was 0.05 ° C above September 2019, so far the hottest on record,” said the European service. That is 0.63 ° C above the average for the period 1981-2020.
Temperatures were particularly high in Siberia, continuing a heat wave that began in the spring that led to spectacular fires.
The heat was also greater than normal over the Arctic Ocean as a whole, says the service, which recalls that summer sea ice in the Arctic has melted this year to the second smallest area on record (after 2012).
“The 2020 combination of record high temperatures and low summer sea ice underlines the importance of improving surveillance in a region that is warming faster than anywhere else in the rest of the world,” commented Carlo Buontempo, director of the European service on climate change.
The Far North was not the only one affected.
For example, North America had a particularly hot September, with 49 ° C recorded earlier this month in Los Angeles County, in a California ravaged by fires.
Beyond September alone, data from European satellites show that the period from January to September 2020 is warmer than the same period in 2019, the second warmest year.
And the comparative analysis of those same nine months for 2020 and 2016, the hottest year in the world, reveals “quite similar” anomalies, continues Copernicus. Even so, climatic events such as the on-going development of a La Niña episode, which tends to lower global temperatures, “will affect the likelihood that 2020 will become the hottest year.”
“There are three months in which anything can happen,” Copernicus scientist Freja Vamborg told AFP, noting that the agency was not making “predictions for global temperatures.”
Copernicus’s satellite database for temperature observations dates back to 1979, but conventional data from land and other agencies do not show a warmer year until 1979, since the pre-industrial era.