Humanity has just experienced the 12 hottest months in at least 125,000 years
(CNN) — Month after month since June, the world has been abnormally hot. Scientists have compared the consequences of climate change this year to a “disaster movie” – rising temperatures, ferocious wildfires, powerful storms and devastating floods – and now new data reveals just how extraordinary global warming is.
Two major reports released this week paint an alarming picture of this unprecedented heat: According to one, humanity has just experienced the hottest 12-month period in at least 125,000 years, while the other declares that 2023 is “almost certainly” the hottest year in recorded history. , after five consecutive months of record temperatures.
“We’ve become very accustomed to climate records falling like dominoes in recent years,” David Reay, executive director of the University of Edinburgh’s Edinburgh Climate Change Institute, told CNN. “But 2023 is something completely different in terms of the sheer margin by which these records have been surpassed.”
The period between November 2022 and the end of October 2023 was the 12 hottest months, with the average temperature 1.32 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, according to an analysis of the international data, published by the non-profit research group Climate Central.
The El Niño phenomenon, a natural ocean and weather pattern in the tropical Pacific, is just beginning to raise temperatures, the report said. The strong long-term trend of global warming is driven primarily by the burning of fossil fuels, which is warming the planet.
“The key is that this is not normal. These are temperatures we should not be seeing,” Andrew Pershing, vice president of science at Climate Central, said on a call with reporters. “It only happens because we released too much carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.”
The researchers found that much of humanity was affected by the extraordinary heat during this 12-month period, with 7.3 billion people (90% of the world’s population) experiencing at least 10 days of high temperatures “with very strong climate signatures.”
In India, 1.2 billion people (86% of the population) experienced at least 30 days of warming, which is at least three times more likely to occur due to climate change. In the United States, this number reached 88 million people, or 26% of the population.
Some cities have been particularly affected. In the United States, these regions were concentrated in the South and Southwest. Houston experienced the longest streak of extreme heat of any major city on Earth, according to the report, with 22 consecutive days of extreme heat between July and August.
The report stated that only two countries, Iceland and Lesotho, experienced colder than average temperatures during this period.
Climate Central’s findings follow another analysis, published by the European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service on Wednesday, which said it was “almost certain” that 2023 would be the hottest year on record.
This prediction comes after the report concluded that last month was the warmest October on record by a significant margin, beating the previous record set in 2019 by 0.4 degrees Celsius. The month was 1.7°C warmer than the pre-industrial average.
“Extraordinary temperature anomalies occurred in October 2023, four months after global temperatures set records,” Samantha Burgess, deputy director of Copernicus, said in a statement.
Every month since June has broken monthly temperature records, and every month since July has been at least 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. According to Copernicus, temperatures this year so far have averaged 1.43 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, which is dangerously close to the internationally agreed ambition to limit global warming to no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius.
Although scientists are most concerned about long-term temperature trends, the past few months above this threshold have been a worrying glimpse of what the world can expect as global warming accelerates.
“The potential impacts of this additional heat are well known,” Hannah Cloke, a climate scientist and professor at the University of Reading in the UK, told CNN. “We are already seeing its impact in more violent storms, more intense rainfall and flooding, more intense, frequent and longer heatwaves, droughts and wildfires.”
In addition to record-breaking land temperatures, ocean temperatures have continued to rise. According to Copernicus, these hurricanes have remained at record levels consistently since early May, fueling the massive development of hurricanes and tropical storms across the planet, including Hurricane Otis, which struck southern Mexico last month.
According to the report, Antarctic sea ice also remained at record lows for the sixth month in a row.
“Very starkly, the 2023 numbers for air temperature, sea temperature, sea ice and the rest look like something out of a disaster movie,” Ray said.
Frederik Otto, senior lecturer in climate science at the Grantham Institute at Imperial College London, said that while the statistics in these reports are large and alarming, what lies behind them is truly terrifying. “The fact that this year we are witnessing record heat means record human suffering,” he said in a statement.
Even as 2023 draws to a close, the unusual heat shows little sign of abating.
China witnessed more than a dozen monthly temperature records on Monday, with temperatures reaching 34 degrees Celsius (93 Fahrenheit) in some places. While in the United States, several heat records were set this week, with temperatures in parts of Texas reaching 93 degrees Fahrenheit on Wednesday, surpassing previous records set in November.
The record-breaking is expected to continue next year. “El Niño will actually start next year, and that will cause more warming as we get closer to 2024,” Pershing said.
Unprecedented global heat adds added significance to the upcoming UN Climate Change Conference (COP28) in Dubai in December, where countries will take stock of their progress towards meeting the Paris Climate Agreement goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees.
Scientists are clear that this means stopping the burning of oil, gas and coal. But a UN report released on Wednesday found that governments plan to produce more than twice the amount of fossil fuels that would limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
“The only thing more evident than the scale of these increases in global temperature and sea ice loss is our continued failure to put the world on track to meet the Paris climate goals,” Re said.
CNN’s Robert Shackelford, Sarah Tonks and Brandon Miller contributed to this report.