January was the warmest one in 2024 even as the world continued to experience warm weather for the eighth month in a row. This is amidst predictions that La Nina, which brings more rains for India and drought to the Americas, will likely set in the third quarter this year, global weather agencies have said. 

Samantha Burgess, Deputy Director of the Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S), said: “2024 starts with another record-breaking month – not only is it the warmest January on record but we have also just experienced a 12-month period of more than 1.5°C above the pre-industrial reference period.”

January 2024 had an average 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, said C3S. 

Lower than last 6, but

On January being the eighth consecutive warmest month, the European agency said: “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.”

At the same time, the Climate Prediction Center (CPC), an arm of the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said even as a transition from El Nino, which set in June 2023, to ENSO (El Nino Southern Oscillation) neutral is likely by April-June 2024, the odds were increasing on La Nina developing in June-August. There is a 55 per cent chance of the weather event developing, it said. 

Copernicus said El Nino began to weaken in the equatorial Pacific, but marine air temperatures in general remained at an unusually high level. 

The European agency said January 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 12 months (February 2023 – January 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. 

SST anomalies weakening

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 average global sea surface temperature (SST) for January over 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, within 0.01°C of the record from August 2023 (20.98°C), it said. 

Since January 31, the daily SST has reached new absolute records, surpassing the previous highest values from August 23 & 24, 2023, Copernicus said.

CPC said since December 2023, positive SST anomalies, which resulted in El Nino, have weakened slightly across most of the Pacific. “More significant weakening has occurred in the far eastern Pacific,” it said. 

OLR anomalies shifting

During the past four weeks, above-average SSTs weakened across most of the equatorial Pacific Ocean, while negative SST anomaly changes were observed over most of the equatorial Pacific.

CPC reiterated last week’s finding that negative OLR anomalies, which result in El Nino episodes, shifted from the Indian Ocean to the central equatorial Pacific Ocean in December.

The current El Nino phenomenon has resulted in 2023 being the warmest year on record with each month since June 2023 being warmer than the other. For India, the weather pattern resulted in the driest August in 120 years, while November experienced the sixth lowest rainfall on record.