The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has reported that the Northern Hemisphere has just experienced its hottest summer on record, with August marking an astonishing climax to a season of extreme and deadly temperatures. August, in particular, stands out as the hottest August ever recorded by modern equipment, trailing only behind July 2023 in overall heat levels.
August 2023 was approximately 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) warmer than pre-industrial averages, a concerning threshold as the world strives to avoid surpassing this 1.5°C increase. However, it’s important to note that the 1.5°C limit is a long-term goal, measured over decades, rather than a benchmark for a single month. This highlights the persistence of warming trends.
Furthermore, the Earth’s oceans, which cover over 70% of the planet’s surface, have also been experiencing record-breaking temperatures. They reached nearly 21 degrees Celsius (69.8 degrees Fahrenheit) and have continuously set high-temperature records for three consecutive months. This alarming trend underscores the gravity of the climate crisis.
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres commented on the situation, stating, “The dog days of summer are not just barking, they are biting. Climate breakdown has begun.”
2023 Climate Rankings: Second Hottest Year on Record
As of now, 2023 ranks as the second-hottest year on record, following 2016, according to Copernicus, the European climate service. This persistent warming trend is primarily attributed to human-caused climate change resulting from the burning of fossil fuels. Additionally, the recent El Niño, a temporary warming of parts of the Pacific Ocean, has contributed to this year’s elevated temperatures. El Niño typically adds extra heat to global temperatures, especially in its second year.
Climatologist Andrew Weaver expressed concern over the lack of serious action taken by governments to address global warming. He emphasized the urgency of the situation, stating, “It’s time for global leaders to start telling the truth… We will not limit warming to 1.5°C; we will not limit warming to 2.0°C. It’s all hands on deck now to prevent 3.0°C global warming—a level of warming that will wreak havoc worldwide.”
Copernicus Climate Change Service Director Carlo Buontempo emphasized the consequences of persistent record-breaking conditions and their impacts on both people and the planet. He called attention to the clear connection between these extremes and the warming of the climate system.
Scientists have estimated that current temperatures exceed those of the last 120,000 years. While the world has experienced warmer periods in its geological history, such conditions occurred before human civilization, when sea levels were much higher, and the polar regions were not ice-covered.
Notably, even in the midst of this global heatwave, Antarctica continues to experience record lows in sea ice levels, as reported by the WMO. Experts are closely monitoring these developments, highlighting the urgency of addressing climate change on a global scale.