Copernicus Declares 2023 Earth’s Hottest Year on Record: A Year of Climate Extremes
In a stark announcement, Copernicus, Europe’s climate change service, has officially declared 2023 as Earth’s hottest year on record, surpassing the previous record-holder, 2016, by a significant margin. The data, dating back to 1850, reveals that the global average temperature for 2023 reached 14.98 degrees Celsius (58.96 F), eclipsing the 2016 record of 14.81 degrees Celsius (58.66 F).
Samantha Burgess, deputy director of Copernicus, characterized 2023 as an “exceptional year” marked by a cascade of shattered climate records. Notably, December 2023 sealed the record as the warmest December globally.
This scorching year featured several extraordinary events, with July and August being Earth’s two warmest months on record. The Northern Hemisphere’s summer season also witnessed unprecedented highs, underscoring the severity of the climate crisis.
Analysis indicates that 2023 was 1.48 degrees Celsius (2.66 F) warmer than the pre-industrial reference level (1850-1900), with nearly half of the days in 2023 surpassing the 1.5°C warming limit. Alarmingly, two days in November experienced temperatures more than 2°C warmer than ever recorded.
Burgess stated, “Not only is 2023 the warmest year on record, it is also the first year with all days over 1°C warmer than the pre-industrial period, likely exceeding temperatures of any period in at least the last 100,000 years.”
Despite the dire precedent set by 2023, experts emphasize that temporary exceedance of the limits set in the Paris Agreement does not constitute a failure, as the agreement considers the climate average over many years.
The report underscores the global nature of this climate crisis, with average air temperatures reaching record levels on every continent except Australia. According to NOAA, the last time Earth recorded a colder-than-average year was in 1976.
Greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels and strong El Niño conditions in the equatorial Eastern Pacific played pivotal roles in driving global temperatures to unprecedented heights. The World Meteorological Organization predicts that the ongoing El Niño event, expected to last through April, may contribute to further temperature spikes in 2024.
Marine heatwaves worldwide, including the Gulf of Mexico and North Atlantic, contributed to record-breaking ocean temperatures. The Copernicus ERA5 dataset reveals that global average sea surface temperatures reached record levels from April through December, impacting Antarctic sea ice, which experienced record lows.
The alarming number of extreme events in 2023, from heatwaves and droughts to floods and wildfires, has been described as a dramatic testament to the profound shifts in the climate. Carlo Buontempo, director of the Copernicus Climate Change service, stated, “The extremes we have observed over the last few months provide a dramatic testimony of how far we are now from the climate in which our civilization developed.”
Notably, concentrations of major greenhouse gases, carbon dioxide and methane, also hit record highs in 2023, signaling an urgent need for global action to address the escalating climate crisis.