It is “almost certain” that 2023 will be the warmest year after October’s record
- Written by Matt McGrath and Mark Pointing
- BBC Climate and Science
New data suggests it has become “almost certain” that 2023 – a year of deadly heatwaves, floods and fires – will be the warmest on record.
These forecasts come after “exceptional” high temperatures in October.
Global average air temperatures were 0.4 degrees Celsius warmer than the previous record high set in October 2019, according to the European Union Climate Change Service.
Because of carbon emissions and the El Niño climate phenomenon, this was the fifth straight month of record warmth.
Researchers say extreme global temperatures are likely to continue until 2024.
This year becoming the warmest on record is largely inevitable: the last two months of 2023 are unlikely to reverse that trend, and high temperatures around the world have continued into November.
October’s temperature mark adds to the list of global heat records set this year.
October wasn’t as unusually hot as September, but it still broke the record for the month by an “exceptional” margin, according to the Copernicus Climate Change Service.
The month was 1.7°C warmer than the pre-industrial average, compared to the period before humans started burning large amounts of fossil fuels.
The warmth we have seen all year so far means that 2023 is “almost certain” to become the world’s warmest year on record, beating 2016.
This is the view of a number of scientific bodies, including Copernicus and the US groups NOAA and Berkeley Earth.
“We really don’t see any sign that the string of exceptional, record-setting months this year is going away anytime soon,” said Zeke Hausfather, a climate scientist at Berkeley Earth.
He told BBC News: “At this point, it is almost certain in all data sets that 2023 will be the hottest year on record. That’s a greater than 99% chance.”
“Recording human suffering”
While many researchers are concerned about the scientific implications of this year’s record temperatures, others point to the fact that rising mercury has real global impacts.
Commenting on the findings, Dr. Frederik Otto from Imperial College London said: “The fact that we are experiencing this record hot year means record human suffering.”
“During this year, extreme heatwaves and droughts, exacerbated by these extreme temperatures, caused thousands of deaths, people to lose their livelihoods, become displaced, etc. These are the important records.”
The main driver of heat is the ongoing emissions of carbon dioxide, especially from burning fossil fuels. This year is complemented by the rise of El Niño – a natural event where warm water rises to the surface in the eastern Pacific Ocean and releases additional heat into the atmosphere.
El Niño conditions have gained strength in recent months, but have not yet reached their peak.
“This El Niño phenomenon is bizarre,” Dr. Hausfather said. “Part of the heat we are seeing is not just due to the increase in El Niño, but due to this rapid transition from (a weather event that cools the oceans) to La Niña conditions as well, which has been suppressing temperatures over the years.” “the last few.”
Scientists are unsure whether this El Niño event is different from others in recent decades. Some worry that this could cause the ocean surface temperature to warm more than it did during previous events such as those in 1997 and 2015. The jury is still out on that.
The year so far has been 1.43C warmer than pre-industrial levels according to Copernicus, with temperatures expected to remain high in the coming months.
Samantha Burgess, deputy director of the Copernicus Climate Change Service, said a combination of her and UN data suggests 2023 could be “warmer than anything the planet has seen in 125,000 years.”
This conclusion is based on observations at weather stations, complex computer models of the climate system, and long-ago climate records from ice cores and tree rings, for example.
It sets the worrying climate context ahead of the UN COP28 summit, which begins on 30 November.
“The sense of urgency for ambitious climate action ahead of COP28 has never been higher,” Dr Burgess said.
The effects of rising temperatures around the world
Temperatures in October were well above the global average, and different parts of the world faced harsh conditions.
- In the UK, temperatures were around 1°C above average, with southern England the warmest at 1.7°C above normal. Wet conditions also persisted and average rainfall was seen around 40% above average.
- In Italy, temperatures in October were more than 3 degrees Celsius above normal, and this also coincided with major flooding in some parts of the country.
- An El Niño-related drought marked the driest October on the Panama Canal since 1950. Dry conditions continue to impact the operations of this important trade route as the driest time of the year approaches.
- Parts of the Middle East were also hit by drought, while East Africa was hit by deadly floods.
High temperatures around the world have continued into November, with hundreds of heat records already broken this month in Japan.
Meanwhile, Europe saw temperatures exceed 35C for the first time ever in November, with high readings in several parts of Greece.
With these rising temperatures, there are concerns that more extreme events could occur in the coming months.
For example, parts of Australia have already been warned of an “increased risk” of bushfires.