After recording the hottest August in history, scientists at the EU’s Copernicus Climate Change Service confirmed that summer 2023 was the warmest summer on record globally.
Summer 2023 was the warmest on record globally by a “large margin,” the European Union’s Earth observation agency confirmed on Wednesday.
The average global temperature between June and August was 16.77C (62.18F), 0.66C above the 1990-2020 average. In Europe – the world’s fastest-warming continent, warming twice as fast as any other continent – temperatures were 0.83C above average at around 19.63C (67.33F), according to the analysis published Wednesday by the EU’s Climate Change Copernicus Service.
This year, the world experiences its hottest June, July, and August ever. July remains the warmest month in history. Throughout that month, more than 6.5 billion people – approximately 81% of the global population – faced climate change-attributed heat, a recent analysis found.
Record-breaking heatwaves baked multiple regions in the Northern Hemisphere this summer, including southern Europe, southern US, and Japan. A study by the non-profit Climate Central suggested that anthropogenic climate change made the blistering heatwave that hit Texas and other southern US states this summer “at least” five times more likely.
Extreme temperatures did not only affect people around the world but also marine ecosystems, as sea and ocean temperatures reached their warmest surface temperatures on record. August as a whole saw the highest global monthly average sea surface temperatures ever recorded across all months, while daily temperature records were broken every day from July 31 to August 31, according to Copernicus data.
In places like Florida, ocean temperatures surpassed the 38C (100F) mark, adding to previous warnings over warming water putting marine life and ecosystems in peril. Meanwhile, the Mediterranean Sea’s surface temperature hit 28.7C (83.7F), the highest median recording since at least 1982.
Samantha Burgess, Copernicus deputy director, called the findings “overwhelming,” adding that until we stop emitting greenhouse gases, the world will continue to experience “more climate records” and “more intense and frequent extreme weather events.”
Yet evidence suggests that we are far from reaching net zero targets, with carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions not expected to peak until 2025. In fact, atmospheric CO2 reached record levels this summer, peaking at 424 parts per million (ppm) in May, more than double what they were before the onset of the Industrial Revolution in the 19th century. A study published in June in the scientific journal Nature even suggested that as much as 90% of the world’s top-35 polluting countries – which together accounted for 82% of global greenhouse gas emissions in 2019 – are “unlikely” to achieve their net-zero targets.
According to a report by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) published in May, there is a 98% chance that at least one of the next five years will be the hottest on record and a 66% chance of temporarily exceeding 1.5C above the 1850-1900 average for at least one of the five years. This, however, does not mean that the planet will permanently surpass the 1.5C Paris Agreement mark, which instead refers to long-term warming over several years.
“It is still possible to limit temperature rise to 1.5C and avoid the very worst of climate change. But only with dramatic, immediate climate action,” said UN Secretary-General António Guterres.
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