Hot like never before: Planet endures warmest season on record
(CN) — The planet saw its warmest three-month period on record after the unruly El Niño weather pattern emerged earlier this year and injected even more heat into the warming planet's atmosphere, the European Union's climate agency said Wednesday.
Globally, the average temperature between June and August was measured at 16.77 degrees Celsius (62.18 degrees Fahrenheit), or 1.19 degrees Fahrenheit above the average global temperature, according to the Copernicus Climate Change Service.
July was the hottest month ever recorded globally and last month was the hottest August on record, the agency said. This year is on track to become the hottest or second-hottest year on record, which was set in 2016 during a powerful El Niño event.
El Niño is a naturally occurring weather phenomenon that oscillates with its opposite, La Niña. El Niño periods can last several years and are associated with heat and unpredictable weather.
All this heat has made this summer the hottest in the Northern Hemisphere since its dataset starts in 1940, Copernicus said.
“Global temperature records continue to tumble in 2023, with the warmest August following on from the warmest July and June leading to the warmest boreal summer in our data record going back to 1940,” said Samantha Burgess, the deputy director at Copernicus.
Copernicus bases its average temperatures on measurements taken between 1991 and 2020, relying on a fleet of satellites and billions of readings at weather stations around the planet.
Along with heat waves and dry conditions in many parts of the world, this El Niño cycle already has brought with it dangerous extreme weather, including severe rainstorms, and helped fuel devastating wildfires.
Massive wildfires have scorched vast areas of Canada, leaving many American cities under clouds of smoke, and burned across southern Europe. Northeastern Greece in recent weeks has been ravaged by the largest wildfire in Europe in years.
On Wednesday, parts of Europe once again saw disastrous extreme weather after massive amounts of rain caused extensive flooding and flash floods in Bulgaria, Greece and Turkey, killing at least seven people.
“Climate breakdown has begun,” warned António Guterres, the United Nations secretary-general, in response to the new report.
“Scientists have long warned what our fossil fuel addiction will unleash,” he said. “Surging temperatures demand a surge in action. Leaders must turn up the heat now for climate solutions. We can still avoid the worst of climate chaos — and we don’t have a moment to lose.”
His statement came on the eve of a Group of 20 summit in New Delhi, the capital of India. G20 summits are meant to bring world leaders together with the goal of solving humanity's most pressing problems, with global warming chief among them.
But action to stop carbon emissions has faltered amid deepening divisions among the world's superpowers and the upending of the global order caused by Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
Carbon emissions are rising again after they dipped during the coronavirus pandemic lockdowns, according to data tracked by Our World in Data, an Oxford University research group. The levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere are the highest in human history, scientists say.
Also in its report, Copernicus said Europe's average temperature between June and August was the fifth warmest ever measured at 67.3 F. For long stretches, southern Europe was hit by staggering heat waves while large parts of northern and central Europe were unseasonably cool for much of July and August.
Meanwhile, record-breaking high sea surface temperatures were registered globally, Copernicus said.
In the Antarctic, the extent of sea ice remained at a record low level for August with about 12% less ice than average, the report said.
Arctic sea ice extent also diminished in August and was 10% below average, but that's far off a record minimum seen in August 2012, the report found.
Petteri Taalas, the secretary-general of the World Meteorological Organization, called the low level of Antarctic sea ice “literally off the charts,” and he warned the El Niño cycle is only at its beginning.
“It is worth noting that this is happening before we see the full warming impact of the El Niño event, which typically plays out in the second year after it develops,” he said.