Climate Change

2023 is on track to be warmest year on record, 2024 could see further increase in temperatures: Study

Human-induced climate change, El Nino influence likely

By Rohini Krishnamurthy
Published: Wednesday 20 September 2023
Global sea surface temperature have hit record levels since April 2023. Photo: iStock__

The year 2023 is likely to become the warmest on record, a new study has warned. This could be due to human-induced climate change and the influence of the ongoing El Nino.

El Nino is the warm phase of a naturally occurring climate pattern. In July 2023, the World Meteorological Organization declared that El Nino conditions had risen in the tropical Pacific.

“There is a general concern about whether the shift of the tropical Pacific from the La Nina phase (the cool phase) to the El nino phase will bring about a new record-breaking event in global surface temperatures,” researchers from China wrote in their study published in the journal Advances in Atmospheric Sciences.

Read more: Ozone Day 2023: Why the South Pole has set alarm bells ringing this year

Compared to the preindustrial era, the average global surface temperature in the first six months of 2023 was 0.88 degrees Celsius and it secured a position as the third warmest on record. 

The first six months were behind 2016 (1.07°C) and 2020 (0.89°C), the first and second warmest years on record, the paper noted.

And if the surface temperature in the last five months of the year is similar to the average of the same months in the last five years, the annual average surface temperature anomaly in 2023 would be roughly 1.26°C. This, according to the paper, will break the year 2016’s record of approximately 1.25°C.

Researchers from China analysed data from China Global Merged Surface Temperature dataset, which fills a critical gap in global temperature monitoring by including data from China. It also covers over a century’s worth of global land-surface air temperature data.

With the help of the database, the researchers measured the anomalies in the global mean surface temperatures since 2023.

The global land surface air temperature (GLAST) in January, February, March, April, June and July of 2023 varied from the 1961-1990 average by 1.31, 1.4, 1.92, 1.07, 1.19, 1.34 and 1.37, respectively.

The anomalies in the global sea surface temperature (GSST) in the first six months relative to 1961-1990 were 0.48, 0.53, 0.62, 0.70, 0.70, 0.77 and 0.85. As for the global mean surface temperature (GMST), the anomalies relative to 1961-1990 in the first six months were 0.76, 0.83, 1.06, 0.82, 0.87, 0.96 and 1.03.

“While GLSAT only reached its second-highest level on record in June, GSST hit record levels after April, so GMST continued to set new all-time high-temperature records after May,” the researchers explained.

Read more: Human-led climate impact rapidly cooling upper atmosphere even as lower atmosphere warms

Further, in July, North Africa, southern Europe, and Canada witnessed an increasing land surface air temperature anomaly. This, the researchers said, may be related to the wildfires.

The researchers also added that positive anomalies were recorded in the oceans as the El Nino pattern has continued to develop.

The El Nino phase has intensified in terms of sea surface temperatures in the central and eastern Pacific. Other anomalies in The North Pacific Ocean, the southern Indian Ocean, and the central and northern Atlantic Ocean are also favouring warmer conditions.

Previously, strong El Nino years — 1997-1998 and 2014-2016 — produced record-high global surface temperatures in 1998 and 2016.

“From this perspective, it is predictable that the development of El Nino will yield high GMST anomalies in 2023 and even for a possible future warmer global surface temperatures in 2024,” the paper read.

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