In March 2024, Earth set another monthly record for global heat — the 10th consecutive month to achieve the heat feat, reports the European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service.

March averaged a temperature of 14.14 degrees Celsius (57.9 degrees Fahrenheit), smashing the previous high set in 2016, according to data from Copernicus, which dates back to before the Civil War. The temperatures during the past year increased the global average by 1.58 degrees Celsius (2.84 degrees Fahrenheit) warmer than the preindustrial average (1850-1900).

“It’s the long-term trend with exceptional records that has us very concerned,” Copernicus Climate Change Service Deputy Director Samantha Burgess told Reuters. “Seeing records like this — month in, month out — really shows us that our climate is changing, is changing rapidly.”

The ongoing record-breaking heat streak is fueled by a variety of factors, including El Niño and greenhouse-gas emissions, according to the report from Copernicus. Experts anticipate temperatures to settle back into norms as El Niño wanes.

“By the end of the summer, if we’re still looking at record breaking temperatures in the North Atlantic or elsewhere, then we really have kind of moved into uncharted territory,” Gavin Schmidt, the director of Nasa’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, told BBC News.

Why is the Earth getting hotter?

The Earth is currently going through an El Niño period. During El Niño, trade winds diminish, and warm water in the Pacific Ocean becomes abnormally warm. This shift causes global temperatures to rise, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

“El Niño can affect our weather significantly,” reports the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “The warmer waters cause the Pacific jet stream to move south of its neutral position. With this shift, areas in the northern U.S. and Canada are dryer and warmer than usual.”

Episodes of El Niño typically occur every two to seven years and last for roughly 12 months.

In addition to El Niño’s temporary impact on rising temperatures, the human-caused increase in greenhouse gas emissions has also driven the rise in temperatures, according to the report from Copernicus.

“The current warming trend is different because it is clearly the result of human activities since the mid-1800s, and is proceeding at a rate not seen over many recent millennia,” reports NASA. “It is undeniable that human activities have produced the atmospheric gases that have trapped more of the Sun’s energy in the Earth system. This extra energy has warmed the atmosphere, ocean, and land.”

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Temperatures smashed records in 2023, too

The year 2023 was the warmest year on record, based on records that date back to the 1850s, per the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

“After seeing the 2023 climate analysis, I have to pause and say that the findings are astounding,” said NOAA Chief Scientist Dr. Sarah Kapnick. “Not only was 2023 the warmest year in NOAA’s 174-year climate record — it was the warmest by far. A warming planet means we need to be prepared for the impacts of climate change that are happening here and now, like extreme weather events that become both more frequent and severe.”

Some experts confess that the increase in temperature is confounding.

“It’s humbling, and a bit worrying, to admit that no year has confounded climate scientists’ predictive capabilities more than 2023 has,” NASA climate scientist Gavin Schmidt wrote in an opinion piece published in the journal Nature.

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