(Bloomberg) -- A winter heat wave over most of the northern hemisphere made New Year’s day the hottest on record for Europe, with temperatures on the snowless hills of Austria higher than those across North Africa and Spain.
This January was 2.2C hotter in Europe than the 1991-2020 average, according to Copernicus, the European Earth observation agency. The Balkans, eastern Europe, Finland, north-western Russia and the Svalbard region registered the continent’s highest temperatures above the seasonal average.
“January 2023 is exceptional,” Samantha Burgess, deputy director at the Copernicus Climate Change Service, said in a statement. “These extreme temperatures remain a tangible indication of the effects of a changing climate for many regions and can be understood as an additional warning of future extreme events.”
Climate change is altering weather patterns across the planet, leading to more instances of extreme heat or extreme cold on every continent. That trend is expected to continue as human emissions of the greenhouse gases that heat up the Earth’s atmosphere rise. So far, average global temperatures have increased by about 1.2C since pre-industrial times and, at current emissions levels, are on track to rise around 3C by 2100.Globally, January 2023 was 0.25C warmer than the average for the month over the last three decades. Though Europe was hotter than average, other regions such as the Iberian Peninsula, North Africa, Greenland, Iceland and northern Russia, were colder than usual. The Russian town of Dzhalinda, in Siberia, recorded an extremely low temperature of -62.1C (-79.28F) on Jan. 10.
Higher atmospheric temperatures are melting ice sheets and glaciers that play a key role in cooling the planet, further exacerbating the warming pattern. The area covered by sea ice in Antarctica reached its lowest level ever for the month of January this year — 31% below the average. In the Arctic, sea ice cover was 4% below average, making it the third lowest for January.
--With assistance from Jonathan Tirone.
©2023 Bloomberg L.P.