October 2023 was significantly hotter than any other October on record, according to scientists.
In fact, it was 1.7C hotter than the pre-industrial temperature averages.
That technically breaches the 2015 Paris Agreement where countries around the world promised to restrict global warming to 1.5C compared to the 1800s, although that pact does refer to long-term changes rather than month-by-month fluctuations.
Still, October 2023 was 0.4C hotter than the last highest record for the autumnal month from 2019. The only other time a month has soared by such a margin was in... September 2023.
October is the fifth month in a row to break records, suggesting we are almost certainly experiencing the hottest overall year ever catalogued.
Scientists are understandably stunned.
Samantha Burgess, the deputy director of the Copernicus Climate Change Service, the European climate agency which monitors global surface air and sea temperatures said:“The amount that we’re smashing records by is shocking.”
She added that the October temperature anomaly is “very extreme”.
According to Reuters, she explained: “September really, really surprised us. So after last month, it’s hard to determine whether we’re in a new climate state.
“But now records keep tumbling and they’re surprising me less than they did a month ago.”
In fact, the Copernicus Climate Change Service said 2023 is now “virtually certain” to be the warmest year recorded. The previous year to hold that title was 2016, another year impacted by El Nino.
El Nino is the natural climate cycle which warms the oceans and drives weather changes around the world, generally increasing temperatures by around 0.2C.
Combined with the carbon we’re still pumping into the atmosphere, and that our oceans are now too warm to absorb as much as heat as they previously did, it’s perhaps not a surprise that 2023 is breaking all kinds of temperature records.
And when Copernicus combines its data set – which reaches back to 1940 – with long-term stats collected by IPCC, the UN’s the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Burgess suggested “we can say this is the warmest year for the last 125,000 years”.
The IPCC looks at sources such as ice cores, tree rings and coral deposits to estimate past temperatures.
It’s worth noting global CO2 emissions also hit a record high last year, despite repeated warnings from the scientific community and promises from governments to crack down on fossil fuels.
And the weather this year has been particularly tough, wrecking communities around the world.
Canada has seen its worst ever wildfire season, while there’s been severe heatwaves in South America, thousands of deaths due to floods in Libya, freezing in Afghanistan, and a cyclone in southern Africa, just to name a few.
As Friederike Otto, climate scientist at Imperial College London, told Associated Press: “It’s so much more expensive to keep burning these fossil fuels than it would be to stop doing it. That’s basically what [record-breaking October] shows.
“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, but that – that is what matters.”