European researchers say a very hot October has put 2023 on a likely path to become the warmest year in recorded history.
Last month, world temperatures beat a 2019 record for warmest October on record by 0.4 degrees, scientists from the European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service announced. The EU agency issues monthly reports on climate observations across Europe.
The latest October record nearly guarantees that 2023 will be the hottest year on record, said Copernicus deputy director Samantha Burgess. “The amount that we’re smashing records by is shocking,” Burgess told The Associated Press (AP).
Scientists have long linked rising world temperatures to gases from the burning of fossil fuels. El Niño has also been warming ocean waters this year.
El Niño is a warming of surface temperatures in the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. The event usually causes hot, dry weather in Asia and Australia and can drive weather changes in other parts of the world.
The World Meteorological Organization has predicted the El Niño weather pattern will last until at least April 2024.
Michael Mann is a climate scientist at the University of Pennsylvania. He told the AP that most El Niño years now become record-breakers because that climate event combines with rising temperatures linked to human causes.
A warmer planet means more extreme and intense weather events like severe drought or hurricanes that hold more water, said Peter Schlosser. He is vice president of the Global Futures Laboratory at Arizona State University. Schlosser was not involved with the Copernicus report.
“We better take this warning that we actually should have taken 50 years ago or more and draw the right conclusions,” Schlosser said. He added that this means the world should expect more records to be broken as a result of that warming. But he questions whether the changes will come in smaller steps going forward.
Schlosser noted Earth was already reaching temperatures above the 1.5 degrees Celsius target limit established by the Paris agreement on climate change. He said the latest observations are another sign there is an urgent need for action to help stop planet-warming pollution.
“It's so much more expensive to keep burning these fossil fuels than it would be to stop doing it. That’s basically what it shows,” said Friederike Otto. She is a climate scientist at Imperial College London. “And of course, you don’t see that when you just look at the records being broken and not at the people and systems that are suffering,” Otto said. “But that… is what matters.”
The findings from Copernicus come three weeks before a United Nations meeting in the United Arab Emirates capital of Dubai, known as COP28. Delegates from nearly 200 countries will attend the gathering. They are seeking to negotiate stronger action to fight climate change.
I’m Bryan Lynn.