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The world experienced its hottest September ever last month after surpassing the previous record by an “extraordinary” 0.5C, the European earth observation agency said, highlighting the challenge of limiting rises in temperatures caused by climate change.
Scientists at the Copernicus Climate Change Service said 2023 was on course to be the hottest on record, after the average global temperature in September was 1.75C degrees warmer than the pre-industrial period of 1850-1900, before human-induced climate change began to take effect.
The monitoring service also found Antarctic sea ice levels remained at record lows for the time of year.
Last month’s global average temperature of 16.38C was 0.5C above the previous warmest September in 2020, it said, and 0.93C above the 1991-2020 average for the month.
The September report follows a record-breaking summer when heatwaves, wildfires and flooding hit many regions in North America, Europe and Asia. Scientists have warned that such weather extremes will become more frequent and intense as global warming continues, with UN chief António Guterres warning of the advent of a dangerous era of “global boiling”.
Samantha Burgess, deputy director of Copernicus, said: “The unprecedented temperatures for the time of year observed in September — following a record summer — have broken records by an extraordinary amount.”
She added that the “extreme month” has likely pushed 2023 into the “dubious honour of first place” as the hottest year ever, with temperatures about 1.4C above pre-industrial average temperatures.
The El Niño weather phenomenon, which involves the warming of the Pacific Ocean, is also expected to drive global temperatures higher over the remainder of this year, scientists said.
Burgess added that with two months to go until countries meet in Dubai at the UN COP28 climate summit, “the sense of urgency for ambitious climate action has never been more critical”.
Countries remain divided over what actions to take to limit global warming to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels, in line with the overarching goal of the 2015 Paris Agreement.
While some countries, such as the US and EU, are pushing for an ambitious timeline to phase out fossil fuel projects without captured emissions, Russia has warned it would oppose such a deal.
In July, China frustrated diplomats at G20 climate negotiations by refusing to debate greenhouse gas emissions targets.
Earlier this year, the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reported the risks of warming were greater than was thought and the world could reach the 1.5C threshold in the “near term”.
In its report for September, Copernicus also found Antarctic sea ice extent remained at a record-low level for the time of year, with the extent 9 per cent below the monthly average for September. Daily Arctic sea ice reached its fifth lowest extent for the month of September.
The agency also registered extreme rainfall in southern Brazil, Chile and Greece over the month, while drier-than-average regions included the southeastern US, Mexico, central Asia and Australia.