Global temperature record smashed in April - again

A man (right) drinks water along the dry banks of the Pahang river.
A man (right) drinks water along the dry banks of the Pahang river. PHOTO: AFP

Last month was the hottest April on record globally, and the seventh month in a row to have broken global temperature records, the Guardian reported on Monday (May 16), citing figures released by Nasa.

Meanwhile in Australia, media reports said on Monday that concentrations of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas that causes global warming, at the important Cape Grim measuring station in Tasmania have broken the symbolic milestone of 400 parts per million (ppm) for the first time.

2016 looks set to be the hottest year on record, and probably by the largest margin ever, said the Guardian.

Figures released by Nasa over the weekend show the global temperature of land and sea was 1.11 deg C warmer in April than the average temperature for the month during the 1951-1980 period, the report said.

It was the 7th consecutive month that temperatures rose at least 1 deg C above the 1951-80 mean, it said. 

The latest figures also smashed the previous record for April by the largest margin ever recorded. 

It makes three months in a row that the monthly record has been broken by the largest margin ever, said the Guardian.

“The interesting thing is the scale at which we’re breaking records,” the Guardian quoted Professor Andy Pitman, director of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science at the University of New South Wales in Australia, as saying. “It’s clearly all heading in the wrong direction.

“Climate scientists have been warning about this since at least the 1980s. And it’s been bloody obvious since the 2000s. So where’s the surprise?” 

Last year was the warmest year since records began in the 19th century, and saw heat waves, droughts and rising sea levels.

In April, representatives of 171 nations signed a climate accord reached in Paris late last year, setting in motion an unprecedented global effort to reduce pollution and slow rising temperatures linked to floods, heatwaves and droughts.

The nations commit to progressively cut greenhouse gas emissions in an effort to hold global warming to well below 2 deg C, and 1.5 deg C if possible.

The pact will only enter into force when ratified by at least 55 nations representing 55 per cent of man-made greenhouse gas emissions. 

But Prof Pitman was quoted by the Guardian as saying: “The 1.5 deg C target, it’s wishful thinking. I don’t know if you’d get 1.5 deg C if you stopped emissions today. There’s inertia in the system. It’s putting intense pressure on 2 deg C."

The global heat wave is being spurred by a massive El Niño phenomenon, which is a release of warm water across the Pacific Ocean and has been blamed for droughts across Africa as well as outbreaks of yellow fever and Zika virus.

The phenomenon is weakening rapidly and odds are increasing of its cooling counterpart, La Niña, developing this year, the World Meteorological Organisation said last Friday (May 13).  

But the Guardian noted that it’s not the biggest El Niño on record and that spike in temperatures is occurring over a background of rapid global warming.

Reports by Australian media on Monday that concentrations of carbon dioxide have broken through 400 parts per million (ppm) at the Cape Grim measuring station in Tasmania, the only station analysing baseline carbon levels in the southern hemisphere, added to evidence of global warming.

"The unfortunate milestone" was reached last Tuesday (May 10) at 8am, local time, said Dr Paul Krummel, who heads the team at  Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) analysing data from Cape Grim, Sydney Morning Herald reported.

The safe level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is 350 parts per million. When measurements began at Cape Grim in 1976, carbon dioxide levels were slightly more than 300 parts per million.

Sites in the northern hemisphere exceeded 400 ppm from 2012 onwards.

"It's probably one of the last places on Earth to actually reach this milestone, and it just highlights the ever-increasing levels of CO2 in the atmosphere," Dr Krummel said of Cape Grim according to ABC News Online.

"Globally, this is going to contribute to rising temperatures, which we are already seeing in the atmosphere," he added.