Paris: The year 2023 is on track to be the hottest year ever recorded in human history, according to the European Union’s climate monitor. The Northern Hemisphere summer witnessed extreme heat waves, droughts, and wildfires across Asia, Africa, Europe, and North America, affecting the economy, ecosystem, and human health. The UN chief said that this is a sign of ‘climate breakdown’ and warned of more ‘disastrous weather’ to come.
The report by the Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S) said that the average global temperature in June, July, and August was 16.77 degrees Celsius (62.19 degrees Fahrenheit), surpassing the previous record of 16.48 degrees in 2019.
“This is the warmest three-month period in human history, going back about 120,000 years,” C3S deputy director Samantha Burgess told AFP. “It was even warmer than that.” United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said, “Climate breakdown is here.” He added, “Scientists have long warned of the consequences of our addiction to fossil fuels. The climate is changing faster than we can cope, with extreme weather events hitting every corner of the planet.”
Record-breaking ocean heat
One of the main drivers of global heat was the record-high sea surface temperatures, which contributed to marine heat waves in the North Atlantic and Mediterranean Sea. Burgess said that the excess heat in the surface ocean makes it likely that 2023 will be the hottest year on record. The average global temperature for the first eight months of 2023 is the second warmest on record, only 0.01C below the benchmark 2016 level, the report said. If the Northern Hemisphere has a ‘normal’ winter, Burgess said, “we can almost certainly say that 2023 will be the warmest year ever experienced by humanity.”
The oceans have absorbed 90 percent of the excess heat generated by human activity since the beginning of the industrial age, according to scientists. This extra heat is trapped by greenhouse gases – mainly from burning oil, gas, and coal – that accumulate in the Earth’s atmosphere. Except in the polar regions, every day this summer from July 31 to August 31 the global mean sea surface temperature exceeded the previous record set in March 2016. Since April, mean ocean temperatures have topped seasonal heat records on a regular basis.
Warmer oceans are also less able to absorb carbon dioxide (CO2), leading to a vicious cycle of global warming as well as disrupting fragile ecosystems. C3S said Antarctic sea ice remained at a record low for the time of year, with monthly values 12 percent below the average, the largest negative discrepancy for August since satellite observations began in the 1970s.
El Niño adds to the challenge
The El Niño weather phenomenon – which warms waters in the South Pacific and beyond – has just begun. Scientists expect the worst effects of the current El Niño to be felt by the end of 2023 and into next year. At the 2015 Paris Climate Summit, countries agreed to keep global temperature rise “well below” 2C from pre-industrial levels, with an ambitious target of 1.5C. A report from UN experts coming this week will assess the world’s progress in meeting the target and inform leaders ahead of a high-stakes climate summit that begins in Dubai on 30 November.