The summer of 2023 was the hottest on record by a wide margin. But September’s heat wave broke new ground in making climate scientists sweat. Here is the full story.
A Brand New Record
All through the summer of 2023, scientists around the globe watched and reported on temperatures that seemed to climb every day.
By the end of August, the season had claimed a new 3-month record.
Only this record didn’t come with a trophy or kudos from world leaders.
Instead, the sweltering summer of 2023 came with catastrophic floods, devastating wildfires, melting ice caps, and choking droughts.
But if scientists thought the worst was behind us, September served notice that Mother Earth may just be getting warmed up.
Scientists Are Nervous
According to the latest numbers from the Copernicus Climate Change Service in Europe, September was another record-setter.
And it pretty much embarrassed the previous champ.
Just three years ago, the coronavirus-laden summer of 2020 produced the hottest September ever. But the ninth month of 2023 topped that mark by nearly a full degree.
It’s alarming enough that the dubious record lasted just three years, scientists say.
But it’s the complete trouncing of the previous number that really has them nervous.
Setting New Standards
Copernicus’ deputy director, Samantha Burgess, says that new temperature records usually surpass the old marks by just a few hundredths of a degree.
The September “victory” was a couple of orders of magnitude bigger than that.
And summer doesn’t seem to be ready to loosen its grip quite yet, either.
All across the United States and Europe, warmer-than-normal temperatures continued into October. Many regions stayed in the 90s Fahrenheit, and others were 10-30 degrees above normal.
It’s not just a summertime phenomenon, either, as South America and Australia have been relative hotbeds the last several months, too.
A Year to Remember
Coming out of what should have been their winter season, those continents may be in for some spicy days ahead as they move into spring and summer.
All of this bad climate news has 2023 poised to become the hottest year on record, surpassing 2016.
“It’s looking like it’s a virtual lock,” says Kim Cobb, an environmental scientist at Brown University.
Both 2016 and 2023 were fueled by a warm El Niño water pattern in the Pacific.
Couple that with man-made factors like carbon emissions, experts say, and you get the kind of self-feeding cycle we’re seeing now.
More Where That Came From
The El Niño conditions are expected to carry over into at least part of 2024, so there may not be much if any, relief in sight.
Burgess says that the bright side to all this would be if it serves as a wake-up call to government leaders around the world.
Changes need to happen fast in order to slow down or reverse the ravages of global warming that have caused so much destruction in the last few months.
“The writing is so clearly on the wall,” she says. And now is the time to start erasing before it’s too late to do anything about it.
Featured Image Credit: Shutterstock / Piyaset