Scientists confirm 2023 as hottest year on record

9th January 2024

Last year was the warmest ever recorded, surpassing the previous annual high set in 2016 by a large margin, scientists have confirmed today.

The EU’s Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S) data shows that the global average surface air temperature was 0.17°C higher in 2023 than seven years prior, and 1.48°C above pre-industrial levels.

This is dangerously close to the 1.5°C threshold that countries are aiming to avoid surpassing on a consistent basis under the Paris Agreement.

Last year was also the first time on records going back to 1850 that every day exceeded 1°C above pre-industrial levels, with close to 50% of days more than 1.5°C warmer, and two days in November over 2°C warmer.

The main drivers of this were greenhouse gas concentrations, as well as El Niño and other natural variations, according to the scientists.

C3S director, Carlo Buontempo, 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.

“This has profound consequences for the Paris Agreement and all human endeavours. If we want to successfully manage our climate risk portfolio, we need to urgently decarbonise our economy whilst using climate data and knowledge to prepare for the future.”

The findings also show that global sea surface temperatures remained “persistently and unusually high”, and that 2023 was the second-warmest year for Europe, with 2020 remaining the hottest.

Arctic sea ice extent at its annual peak in March ranked amongst the four lowest for the time of the year in the satellite record.

Meanwhile, atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide and methane continued to increase and reached record levels in 2023, reaching 419 parts per million (ppm) and 1,902 parts per billion (ppb), respectively.

“2023 was an exceptional year with climate records tumbling like dominoes,” said C3S deputy director, Samantha Burgess.

“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. Temperatures during 2023 likely exceed those of any period in at least the last 100,000 years.”

A large number of extreme events were also recorded across the globe last year, including heatwaves, floods, droughts and wildfires. Estimated global wildfire carbon emissions increased by 30% with respect to 2022, largely driven by persistent wildfires in Canada.

IEMA CEO, Sarah Mukherjee MBE, commented: "Today's news that last year was the hottest on record is yet another reminder of how little time we have left to decarbonise our economy and avert the worst impacts of climate change.

"This transition will not be possible without a workforce capable of delivering it, which is why leaders must invest in the green skills and training needed to put us on a sustainable footing and adapt to record-breaking temperatures.

"It is simply magical thinking to suggest that we can truly tackle the climate crisis without supporting new green jobs and industries today."

Image credit: Shutterstock


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