This year is ‘almost certainly’ the hottest in 125,000 years, EU scientists say

BRUSSELS, Nov 8 (Reuters) – This year is “almost certainly” the hottest in 125,000 years, European Union scientists said on Wednesday, after data showed last month was the world’s warmest October in that period.

Last month beat the previous October temperature record, from 2019, by a massive margin, the EU’s Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S) said.

“The record was broken by 0.4 degrees Celsius, which is a huge margin,” said C3S deputy director Samantha Burgess, who described the October temperature anomaly as “very extreme”.

The warmth is a result of continued greenhouse gas emissions from human activity, combined with the emergence this year of the El Nino weather pattern, which warms surface waters in the eastern Pacific.

Globally, the average surface air temperature in October was 1.7 degrees Celsius warmer than the same month in 1850-1900, which Copernicus defines as the pre-industrial period.

The record-breaking October means 2023 is now “virtually certain” to be the warmest year on record, C3S said in a statement. The previous record was 2016 – another El Nino year.

Copernicus’ data set goes back to 1940. “When we combine our data with the IPCC, we can say that this is the warmest year in the last 125,000 years,” Burgess said.

The long-term data from the UN’s climate panel IPCC includes readings from sources such as ice cores, tree rings and coral deposits.

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The only other time before October that a month broke the temperature record by such a large margin was in September 2023.

“September really, really surprised us. So after last month, it’s hard to tell if we’re in a new climate state. But now the records keep falling and they surprise me less than they did a month ago,” Burgess said.

Michael Mann, a climate scientist at the University of Pennsylvania, said: “Most El Nino years are now record-breaking because the extra global warmth from El Nino contributes to the steady ramp of anthropogenic warming.”

Climate change fuels increasingly destructive extremes. This year it included floods that killed thousands of people in Libya, severe heat waves in South America and Canada’s worst wildfire season on record.

“We must not let the devastating floods, wildfires, storms and heatwaves seen this year become the new normal,” said Piers Forster, climate scientist at the University of Leeds.

“By rapidly reducing greenhouse gas emissions over the next decade, we can halve the rate of warming,” he added.

Despite countries setting increasingly ambitious targets to gradually reduce emissions, this has so far not happened. Global CO2 emissions hit record highs in 2022.

Reporting by Kate Abnett; Editing by Jan Harvey

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Kate Abnett covers EU climate and energy policy in Brussels, reporting on Europe’s green transition and how climate change affects people and ecosystems across the EU. Other areas of coverage include international climate diplomacy. Before joining Reuters, Kate covered emissions and energy markets for Argus Media in London. She is part of the teams whose reporting on Europe’s energy crisis won two Reuters Journalist of the Year awards in 2022.

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Gloria Dickie reports on climate and environmental issues for Reuters. She is based in London. Her interests include biodiversity loss, arctic science, the cryosphere, international climate diplomacy, climate change and public health, and human-wildlife conflict. She previously worked as a freelance environmental journalist for 7 years, where she wrote for publications such as the New York Times, Guardian, Scientific American and Wired magazine. Dickie was a finalist in the 2022 Livingston Awards for Young Journalists in the international reporting category for his climate reporting from Svalbard. She is also a writer at WW Norton.