2023 set to be hottest year on record, EU scientists say

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This year is set to be the world’s warmest in 125 000 years, European Union scientists said on Wednesday, after data showed last month was the hottest October on record by a massive margin.

Last month exceeded the previous highest October average temperature, from 2019, by 0.4 degrees Celsius, the EU’s Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S) Deputy Director Samantha Burgess said, describing the temperature anomaly as “very extreme”.

That has made 2023 as a whole “virtually certain” to be the warmest year recorded, C3S said in a statement.

The heat is a result of continued greenhouse gas emissions from the burning of fossil fuels, combined with the emergence this year of the naturally occurring El Nino climate pattern, which warms the surface waters in the eastern Pacific Ocean.

The current hottest year on record is 2016 — another El Nino year — although 2023 is on course to overtake that.

Copernicus’ dataset goes back to 1940. “When we combine our data with the IPCC, then we can say that this is the warmest year for the last 125 000 years,” Burgess said.

The longer-term data from the UN climate science panel IPCC includes readings from sources such as ice cores, tree rings, and coral deposits.

Climate change is fuelling increasingly destructive extremes. In 2023, that includes floods that killed thousands of people in Libya, severe heatwaves in South America, and Canada’s worst wildfire season on record.

Globally, the average surface air temperature in October of 15.3 Celsius (59.5 degrees Fahrenheit), was 1.7 degrees Celsius warmer than the average for October in 1850-1900, which Copernicus defines as the pre-industrial period.

The only other month to breach the temperature record by such a large margin was September 2023.

“September really, really surprised us,” Burgess said. “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.”