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Record-Breaking Global Average Temperature: The Influence of El Niño and Emissions

On Monday, July 3, the global average temperature reached a historical milestone of 17.01 degrees Celsius, making it the highest ever recorded. According to the data from the National Center for Environmental Prediction, the previous record of 16.92 Celsius dates back to August 2016. This indicates that the world had never experienced an average temperature of 17 degrees Celsius before.

While this record-breaking temperature is certain to be the warmest since satellite temperature monitoring began in 1979, experts believe it is also likely the highest since widespread instrumental records started towards the end of the 19th century. Furthermore, it has been confirmed that last month was the hottest June on record.

The impact of this heatwave has seriously impacted various countries including Spain, China, the United States, and many nations in Northern Africa and Asia. Unusual marine heatwaves have also been observed, such as in the North Sea. Even Antarctica, despite its all-time cold wintry weather, has experienced exceptionally warm temperatures this year.

Researchers attribute the new temperature record to two primary factors: El Niño and the increasing emissions of carbon dioxide. El Niño is a natural climate pattern characterized by the warming of the central and eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean. It typically occurs every two to seven years and significantly affects global weather systems, leading to changes in rainfall patterns, atmospheric circulations and temperatures. Climate Researcher Leon Simons told BBC that since the warmer phase of El Niño has started, we should anticipate a significant rise in the number of temperature records being shattered over the next 1.5 years.

This implies that further temperature rises can be anticipated. Environmental Researcher Karsten Haustein stated that “chances are that July will be the warmest ever”. Based on her calculations, if the trends from the first week of this month continue, July will surpass the previous record set in July 2017 by approximately 0.025 degrees Celsius. Haustein added that “while southern hemisphere temperatures will drop a bit in the next few days, chances are that July and August will see even warmer days.”

However, this temperature shift did not come as a surprise: U.S. scientists officially confirmed the onset of El Niño in June and predicted that 2024 is likely to become the hottest year globally. Adam Scaife, head of long-range predictions at the UK Met Office stated to BBC in June that “a new record for global temperature next year is definitely plausible. It depends how big the El Niño turns out to be.”

To conclude, the current heatwave can be attributed to both the natural climate pattern of El Niño and human-induced emissions. Scientists project that this trend will persist, resulting in significantly warmer months (if not years) ahead.  

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