Image Source : PTI (FILE) Man walks on road on a hot summer day in New Delhi.

Weather update: According to new data released today (June 5), the world experienced the warmest May ever, with record heat, rain and floods wreaking havoc in many countries. It was also the 12 consecutive month of record-high temperatures, a result of the combined effect of now weakening El Nino and human-caused climate change, the European Union’s climate agency Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S) said.

The update from Copernicus coincided with the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) prediction that there is an 80 per cent chance that one of the next five years will be at least 1.5 degrees Celsius warmer than it was at the start of the industrial age. It also said there is an 86 per cent chance that at least one of these years will set a new temperature record, beating 2023 which is currently the warmest year.

Global average temperature in May 2024

The global average temperature for May was 1.52 degrees Celsius above the 1850–1900 pre-industrial average, marking the 11th consecutive month (since July 2023) at or above 1.5 degrees Celsius, Copernicus said.

A permanent breach of the 1.5 degrees Celsius limit specified in the Paris Agreement, however, refers to long-term warming over many years. The European climate agency said the global average temperature for the last 12 months (June 2023-May 2024) is the highest on record, at 0.75 degree Celsius above the 1991–2020 average and 1.63 degrees Celsius above the 1850–1900 pre-industrial average.

Carlo Buontempo, C3S Director, said, “It is shocking but not surprising that we have reached this 12-month streak. While this sequence of record-breaking months will eventually be interrupted, the overall signature of climate change remains and there is no sign in sight of a change in such a trend.”

“We are living in unprecedented times, but we also have unprecedented skill in monitoring the climate and this can help inform our actions. This string of hottest months will be remembered as comparatively cold but if we manage to stabilise the concentrations of GHGs in the atmosphere in the very near future we might be able to return to these ‘cold’ temperatures by the end of the century,” he said.

What do climate scientists say? 

According to climate scientists, countries need to limit the global average temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial period to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. Earth’s global surface temperature has already increased by around 1.15 degrees Celsius compared to the average in 1850-1900 due to the rapidly increasing concentration of greenhouse gases- primarily carbon dioxide and methane- in the atmosphere.

This warming is considered the reason behind record droughts, wildfires, and floods worldwide. According to a recent study by scientists at Germany’s Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, climate impacts could cost the global economy around USD 38 trillion a year by 2049, with countries least responsible for the problem and having minimum resources to adapt to impacts suffering the most.

Globally, 2023 was the warmest year in the 174-year observational record, with the global average temperature at 1.45 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial baseline (1850-1900). 

Temperature to set new record in 2024 

The warming may set a new record in 2024 as scientists say El Nino- periodic warming of the ocean surface in the central and eastern tropical Pacific Ocean- typically has the greatest impact on global climate in the second year of its development. The world is witnessing weather extremes under a combined effect of the 2023-24 El Nino and human-caused climate change.

Heatwave in India

Amid a brutal heat wave, India recorded nearly 25,000 suspected heat stroke cases and 56 deaths due to heat-related illnesses from March to May, media reported last week, citing data from the health ministry.

However, the data does not include deaths from Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, and Delhi, and the final numbers are expected to be higher, a source said. Global weather agencies, including the India Meteorological Department (IMD), are expecting La Nina conditions by August-September.

While El Nino conditions are associated with weaker monsoon winds and drier conditions in India. La Nina conditions- the antithesis of El Nino- lead to plentiful rainfall during the monsoon season.

(With PTI inputs) 

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