2023 Was The Hottest Year On Record, But Scientists Are Already Worried About 2024

Last year may have been the hottest one for 100,000 years.
2023 was the hottest year on record. So what does that mean for this year?
2023 was the hottest year on record. So what does that mean for this year?
Zac Goodwin - PA Images via Getty Images

2023 was the hottest year since records began, making global temperatures 1.48C hotter than the pre-industrial average climate.

This means we came dangerously close to the 1.5C temperature limit countries agreed to stick to in the 2015 Paris Agreement to avoid the most disastrous consequences of the climate crisis.

Here’s what you need to know.

How hot was 2023?

Very hot.

According to the European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service, the 2023 average was the highest temperature since records began in 1940, increasing by an average of 1.48C.

By studying sources like tree rings and air bubbles in glaciers, it was also probably the hottest year in 100,000 years, the scientists say.

The specialists found the world exceeded the 1.5C limit on more than half of the days of 2023, setting a “dire precedent”, while CO2 emissions also hit another new record level in 2023.

The current El Nino – the natural warming of the Pacific Ocean which adds to higher global temperatures – has contributed , too.

The weather phenomenon definitely heightened 2023′s temperatures, although scientists can’t be sure if the record-breaking year was solely down to this, or if it was another factor we’re yet to uncover.

The Copernicus Climate Change Service’s director, Carlo Buontempo said: “We don’t know whether something else has happened in the climate system and we may have passed some tipping point.

“We don’t have evidence of it, but we don’t have evidence of the contrary either.”

We did not technically break the Paris Agreement, because the terms refer to repeatedly breaching the 1.5C limit over several decades.

But, it’s still alarming. As Buontemp said: “The extremes we have observed over the last few months provide a dramatic testimony of how far we now are from the climate in which our civilisation developed.”

As London School of Economics and Political Science’s Bob Ward told HuffPost UK the results were “shocking but not surprising” – especially after a year full of extreme weather and natural disasters.

Scientists noted throughout 2023 that every month since June has been the world’s hottest on record compared with the corresponding month in previous years.

As director of policy and communications of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, Ward added: “This has been yet another exceptional year, with global average temperature perilously close to the threshold of dangerous climate change that governments have agreed we should avoid.”

Calling for an urgent end to fossil fuels, he said: “We are peering into the abyss, with the lives and livelihoods of millions of people around the world now at risk.”

Why is 2024 expected to be even hotter?

The second year of the El Nino phenomenon has historically been warmed than the first, because it takes several months to come into full effect.

Early estimates suggest 2024 will be between 1.3C hotter than pre-industrial temperatures – or 1.6C.

El Nino, part of a multi-year cycle including a neutral period and its cooler counterpart La Nina.

As Michael McPhaden, senior scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration told Bloomberg, there’s also a “lag or delay between heating of the tropical Pacific and the rise in global surface temperatures”.

And as the climate crisis intensifies, both El Nino and La Nina have had more extreme impacts on the global temperature.

There were also some anomalies in 2023, like the record heat recorded in the Atlantic Ocean in late July – which is not usually triggered by El Nino – which means this year could be even more unpredictable.

At the moment, scientists predict 2024 will mean places where rainfall is common will become dry, and dry places become wet, which will probably seriously impact agriculture, trigger floods and droughts.

Wildfires are also a significant risk, as are storms – and coral bleaching, similar to that seen in a comparable El Nino year, 2016.

However, history suggests El Nino does drop off by mid-2024, so the weather should calm down a little – but, we are in an unprecedented time and there’s no guarantee.


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