January 2024 was the warmest January on record globally, with an average ERA5 surface air temperature of 13.14°C, 0.70°C above the 1991-2020 average for January and 0.12°C above the temperature of the previous warmest January, in 2020.

This analysis comes from Copernicus, and its ERA5 analysis shows an average surface air temperature rise for January that is the eighth month in a row that is the warmest on record for the respective month of the year. The global temperature anomaly for January 2024 was lower than those of the last six months of 2023, but higher than any before July 2023.

The month was 1.66°C warmer than an estimate of the January average for 1850-1900, the designated pre-industrial reference period. The global mean temperature for the past twelve months (Feb 2023 – Jan 2024) is the highest on record, at 0.64°C above the 1991-2020 average and 1.52°C above the 1850-1900 pre-industrial average.

European temperatures varied in January 2024 from much below the 1991-2020 average over the Nordic countries to much above average over the south of the continent. Outside Europe, temperatures were well above average over eastern Canada, north-western Africa, the Middle East and central Asia, and below average over western Canada, the central USA and most of eastern Siberia.

The seasonal El Niño began to weaken in the equatorial Pacific, but marine air temperatures in general remained at an unusually high level.  The average global sea surface temperature (SST) for January over 60°S–60°N reached 20.97°C, a record for January, 0.26°C warmer than the previous warmest January, in 2016, and second highest value for any month in the ERA5 dataset, within 0.01°C of the record from August 2023 (20.98°C).

Met Office forecast

The UK Met Office outlook for global temperature suggests 2024 will be a further record-breaking year, expected to exceed 2023, which is itself almost certain to be the warmest year on record.

The anticipated two-stage spike in global temperature has received a temporary and partial boost by the current El Niño event warming the tropical Pacific. But, says the Met Office’s professor Adam Scaife: “The main driver for record-breaking temperatures is the ongoing human-induced warming since the start of the Industrial Revolution. 2023 is almost certain to be the warmest year on record, exceeding the current record set in 2016 which was also boosted by an El Niño event.”

The global average temperature is measured against the difference between 1850-1900: a proxy for the Industrial Revolution. The global average temperature rise for 2023 is expected to be below 1.5 °C, but the 2024 forecast suggests for the first time that values of 1.5 °C or above cannot be ruled out.

The Met Office’s Dr Nick Dunstone, who led the forecast, said: “The forecast is in-line with the ongoing global warming trend of 0.2 °C per decade, and is boosted by a significant El Niño event. Hence, we expect two new global temperature record-breaking years in succession, and, for the first time, we are forecasting a reasonable chance of a year temporarily exceeding 1.5 °C.”

Dr Dunstone concluded: “It’s important to recognise that a temporary exceedance of 1.5 °C won’t mean a breach of the Paris Agreement. But the first year above 1.5 °C would certainly be a milestone in climate history.”

The Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S), was implemented by the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts ECMWF on behalf of the European Commission. ERA5, produced by the Copernicus,  is the fifth generation ECMWF atmospheric reanalysis of the global climate covering the period from January 1940 to present.