Scientists confirm 2023 hottest year on record
The year 2023 was the hottest on record and likely the hottest in tens of thousands of years, the EU’s Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S) revealed in its annual Global Climate Highlights report published on Tuesday.
With a global average temperature of 14.98 degrees Celsius according to C3S’ ERA5 data set, 2023 beat the average temperature of the previous record year, 2016, by 0.17 degrees – a “remarkable” margin, the organization’s director, Carlos Buontempo, told Reuters.
While global temperature records only exist dating back to 1850, C3S scientists used alternative sources of data, such as tree rings and air bubbles in glaciers, to reach the conclusion that 2023 was “very likely” the warmest year in 100,000 years, Buontempo said.
The year marked the first time on record that every day was more than one degree Celsius hotter than the average temperatures recorded during the “pre-industrial” reference period of 1850 to 1900, according to the report. The months of June through December were warmer than corresponding months from previous years, while July and August were the warmest two months on record. July saw the highest absolute temperatures.
Last year’s temperatures were on average 1.48 degrees warmer than the pre-industrial level, leading scientists to predict that the coming year will finally exceed 1.5 degrees of warming, the marker that signatories of the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement crafted their climate policies to avoid as representative of the most severe consequences of climate change.
Nearly half of 2023’s days were more than 1.5 degrees hotter than the same dates in 2022, setting “a dire precedent” for the future, and two days in November were a full two degrees warmer than during the pre-industrial period.
Carbon dioxide levels in Earth’s atmosphere also reached the highest level ever recorded in 2023, hitting 419 parts per million, according to the report.
While much coverage of the report attributed the rising temperatures to climate change, C3S also acknowledged the role of El Niño, a recurrent weather phenomenon that warms the surface of the eastern Pacific Ocean, often triggering unpredictable or severe weather and temperature fluctuations around the world. El Niño began in early July, according to the World Meteorological Organization, and record-high sea surface temperatures followed, reaching 21.02 degrees Celsius in August.
The scientists argued that even climate change and El Niño could not fully account for the unusually high temperatures, suggesting additional “minor contributors” like the approach of a peak solar cycle, the January 2022 eruption of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano, and a drop in emissions from the European shipping industry played a role in the record-setting heatwave.