Climate records shattered in 2023

The Earth’s climate continued to warm in 2023, bringing record-breaking temperatures, sea ice melt and higher sea levels.

Those are the findings of the World Meteorological Office, which issued a “red alert” in its latest State of the Global Climate report noting several markers of climate change were shattered in the previous year.

It confirms that the planet’s average temperature measured at 1.45 degrees above the 1850-1900 pre-industrial baseline.

Carbon in the atmosphere continued to reach record highs, and so too did ocean heat measurements. Sea levels increased twice as fast in the last 10 years than the decade earlier.

It also comes amid the unprecedented decline in winter sea ice in Antarctica.

“Climate change is about much more than temperatures,” says WMO Secretary-General Celeste Saulo. “What we witnessed in 2023, especially with the unprecedented ocean warmth, glacier retreat and Antarctic sea ice loss, is cause for particular concern.”

The records were aided by the development of short-term climate patterns that favour warmer temperatures, like El Niño, but the WMO and other groups have heightened concerns that the planet is fast losing its ability to keep average temperatures to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels – the target of the Paris Climate Agreement.

With record rates of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases accumulating in the atmosphere – overwhelmingly due to human activity – these records are tracking to predictions made by climate scientists in recent years.

One of those was from the WMO itself which suggested in May that 1 of the next 5 years would be the hottest on record. That prediction has now been confirmed at the first opportunity.

While El Niño is expected to wane and potentially swing back to a cooler, wetter La Niña later this year, it’s likely to leave several other record-breaking months in its wake.

The deputy director of the European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change service suggested as much when speaking to Cosmos at the start of the year. Reporting from the Chinese Academy of Meteorological Sciences at the beginning of March also found surface air temperatures were 90% likely to breach records.

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