2023 is “almost certain to be the warmest year on record” after October smashed temperature highs, while the mercury will keep rising as the warming El Niño effect continues well into next year.
That’s the message from UN World Meteorological Organization (WMO), which said on Wednesday that for the calendar year to date, the global mean temperature is the highest ever recorded, 1.43 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, and sea ice in the Antarctic remains at record low levels.
WMO expects the warming El Niño climate pattern to last at least until April 2024, contributing to a further spike in temperatures.
Head of WMO, Petteri Taalas, said that as El Niño’s impacts on global temperature typically play out in the year after its development, next year “may be even warmer”.
He warned that extreme weather events such as heatwaves, drought, wildfires, heavy rain and floods will be worse in some regions.
Last month smashed through the previous October temperature record, from 2019, by a massive margin, the EU’s Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S) said.
While El Niño occurs naturally, it takes place in the context of climate change fuelled by “increasing concentrations of heat-trapping greenhouse gases from human activities,” Prof. Taalas stressed.
“The record was broken by 0.4 degrees Celsius, which is a huge margin,” said C3S Deputy Director Samantha Burgess, who described the October temperature anomaly as “very extreme.”
The heat is a result of continued greenhouse gas emissions from human activity, combined with the emergence this year of the El Nino weather pattern, which warms the surface waters in the eastern Pacific Ocean.
Globally, the average surface air temperature in October was 1.7 degrees Celsius warmer than the same month in 1850-1900, which Copernicus defines as the pre-industrial period.
The record-breaking October means 2023 is now “virtually certain” to be the warmest year recorded, C3S said in a statement. The previous record was 2016, another El Nino year.
Copernicus’ dataset goes back to 1940. “When we combine our data with the IPCC, then we can say that this is the warmest year for the last 125,000 years,” Burgess said.
The longer-term data from the U.N. climate science panel IPCC includes readings from sources such as ice cores, tree rings and coral deposits.
The only other time before October a month breached the temperature record by such a large margin was in September 2023.
“September really, really surprised us. So after last month, it’s hard to determine whether we’re in a new climate state. But now records keep tumbling and they’re surprising me less than they did a month ago,” Burgess said.
Michael Mann, a climate scientist at University of Pennsylvania, told Reuters: “Most El Nino years are now record-breakers, because the extra global warmth of El Nino adds to the steady ramp of human-caused warming.”
Climate change is fueling increasingly destructive extremes. This year, that included floods that killed thousands of people in Libya, severe heatwaves in South America, and Canada’s worst wildfire season on record.
“We must not let the devastating floods, wildfires, storms, and heatwaves seen this year become the new normal,” said Piers Forster, climate scientist at University of Leeds.
“By rapidly reducing greenhouse gas emissions over the next decade, we can halve the rate of warming,” he added.
Despite countries setting increasingly ambitious targets to gradually cut emissions, so far that has not happened. Global CO2 emissions hit a record high in 2022.
Sources: VOA, UN.org, Reuters.