Global temperatures for December and January were especially hot, data from international organisations shows.
December was the second hottest twelfth month measured in 140 years, coming in at a whopping 1.05°C above the 20th century average, said the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOOA).
NOOA said that all the hottest months have occurred since 2015.
In Europe, the Copernicus Programme found that January was the hottest on record, with temperatures 1.2°C above the 1981 to 2010 normal.
The previous European record for January was in 2007.
Higher than normal
On the whole, the Copernicus Programme found that 2019 was the warmest year on record in Europe as global temperatures continue their upward trend.
The long-term forecast for South Africa shows higher than normal temperatures, according to the South African Weather Service (SAWS).
The northern and north-eastern parts of the country can expect significantly higher temperatures, while the south-west will moderate somewhat, according to the forecast from February to April 2020.
“Our forecast shows warmer than normal temperatures when compared to the baseline. Remember that baseline normal is based on years from 1981 to 2010,” SAWS long-term forecaster Kobus Olivier told News24.
The pattern indicates that what is currently regarded as normal is shifting warmer in terms of temperature and it will be reviewed in 2020.
The current forecast does not compare to the recent climate, warned Olivier.
“The last couple of years were quite hot – there were temperature records over the last couple of years. That’s why we calculate it on what we regard as normal.”
The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) Special Report: Global Warming suggests that warming is a result of human activity and is likely to increase global temperatures between 0.8°C and 1.2°C.
In the Fifth Assessment Report, it found that temperatures had already increased by 0.85°C from pre-industrial times, resulting in a loss of 1.07 × 106km² of ice per decade.
Because of the increasing temperatures, a substantial gap has built up between observed weather in SA and what is regarded as normal.
“There’s a 10-year gap between the normal and what we have now. Rainfall is changing differently than temperature. Total rainfall is not necessarily changing, but extremes are,” said Olivier.
SAWS data showed below normal rainfall patterns in its long-term forecast to April 2020.
NOOA data showed that in the Southern Hemisphere, December 2019 was the second warmest on record, while December 1909 and 1910 were joint coldest.
According to the IPCC, increased temperature has contributed to increased food insecurity, negatively impacted terrestrial ecosystems, increased desertification and land degradation.