The dried-up Leeu Gamka Dam in Beaufort West in this December 31, 2018 file photo. Picture: Kelvin Trautman, Flux Communications via AP
Last year was the fourth warmest on record, extending a scorching streak driven by a build-up of man-made greenhouse gases, the EU’s Copernicus Climate Change Service said yesterday.

Average world surface air temperatures were 14.7ºC last year, just 0.2ºC off the highest, it said in the first global assessment based on full-year data. This year would also probably be hot, its scientists said.

“Dramatic climatic events like the warm and dry summer in large parts of Europe, or the increasing temperature around the Arctic regions, are alarming signs to all of us,” said Jean-Noë* Thépaut, the head of Copernicus.

Among other extremes last year, California and Greece suffered severe wildfires, Kerala in India had the worst flooding since the 1920s and heatwaves struck from Australia to North Africa.

Around Antarctica, the extent of sea ice is at a record low at the start of this year, according to the US National Snow and Ice Data Centre.

Copernicus chief scientist Freja Vamborg said this year would also probably be hot.

“We now have a nascent El Nino.

“It depends partly on what happens - will it continue, or die out?” she said.

The last four years have seen the highest average temperatures since records began in the 19th century - 2016 was the hottest, boosted by an El Nino event that warmed the surface of the Pacific Ocean, and then 2017 and 2015. Reuters