The global average temperature was for 12 months more than 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels for the first time, according to data from Copernicus Climate Change Service.
The record, set between February 2023 and January 2024, brings the world closer to breaching the Paris Agreement, which aims to pursue efforts “to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels” and keep temperature increases to “well below 2°C”.
It came as the EU Earth observation programme revealed that last month was the world’s warmest January on record, with an average temperature of 13.14°C.
Samantha Burgess, deputy director of Copernicus, 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.
“Rapid reductions in greenhouse gas emissions are the only way to stop global temperatures increasing.”
The average temperature was also 0.7°C higher than the 1991-2020 average for January, it said.
It is the eighth month in a row to achieve a record.
Last year was the hottest on record by a “large margin”, with average temperatures approaching 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. January eclipsed that marker, at 1.66°C hotter than the period before people started burning fossil fuels.
The month produced the highest provisional UK temperature, reaching 19.6°C in Kinlochewe in north-west Scotland due to a weather phenomenon known as the Foehn effect, which causes the warming and drying of air on the side of a mountain facing away from the wind.
Other areas of Europe also posted record temperatures, including Spain where the mercury climbed above 30°C in parts, including Calles in the south-east. The average maximum across the country was about 18°C to 19°C, almost double the normal 10.6°C average high.
The January temperature varied depending on the location, being much below the 1991-2020 average over the Nordic countries to much above average over the south of the European continent.
Outside Europe, temperatures were much warmer than average over eastern Canada, north-west Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia, and below average over western Canada, the central USA and most of eastern Siberia.
It was a wetter than average in January in large parts of Europe, with storms in north and south-west Europe, but drier than average in south-east and northern Spain and the Maghreb, southern UK, Ireland, eastern Iceland, most of Scandinavia, part of north-western Russia, and the eastern Balkans.
It was also drier than average in North America, Canada, the Horn of Africa, south central Asia and the Arabian Peninsula.
The average global sea surface temperature was at a record high at 20.97°C, which was 0.26°C warmer than the previous warmest January, in 2016.
Sea ice in the Arctic was close to average and the highest since 2009 but 18 per cent below average in the Antarctic, where it was the sixth lowest on record in January.
There were also below-average sea ice concentrations in the Ross and Amundsen seas, northern Weddell Sea, and along the coast of East Antarctica.
Analysis by the World Meteorological Organisation of six international data sets found that the annual average global temperature in 2023 was warmer by 1.45°C, with a variance of plus or minus 0.12°C, than the period before people started burning fossil fuels.
New temperature records were set every month between June and December, with July and August being the hottest.
The UN weather agency has said global temperatures could outstrip last year’s records.
Researchers have warned that the window to limit global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels and offset the worst effects of climate change, is closing.