Receive free Climate change updates
We’ll send you a myFT Daily Digest email rounding up the latest Climate change news every morning.
The world has experienced its hottest season on record, the EU earth observation agency reported, as heat records in the 2023 northern hemisphere summer were “not just broken but smashed”, scientists said.
The June to August period was the planet’s warmest since records began in 1940, according to data from the Copernicus Climate Change Service.
UN secretary-general António Guterres said the planet had “just endured a season of simmering” and called on global leaders to take urgent action.
“Climate breakdown has begun,” he warned. “Our climate is imploding faster than we can cope with extreme weather events hitting every corner of the planet.”
The global average temperature was 16.77C, or 0.66C higher than the 1990- 2020 average. This beat the previous record set in 2019 by 0.3C, with an average temperature of 16.48C. Every fraction of a degree of warming of the planet has an exponential effect.
Extreme weather patterns have concerned experts who fear it indicates an acceleration of global warming.
“Global temperature records continue to tumble in 2023, with the warmest August following on from the warmest July and June leading to the warmest boreal summer in our data record going back to 1940,” said Samantha Burgess, deputy director of the Copernicus.
“The scientific evidence is overwhelming — we will continue to see more climate records and more intense and frequent extreme weather events impacting society and ecosystems, until we stop emitting greenhouse gases.”
This year could yet be the hottest on record, with the first eight months of the year ranking as the second-warmest, just .01C below 2016 as the warmest year so far, according to Copernicus.
In Europe the temperature was 0.83C above average making it the fifth warmest summer season, although it has suffered among the most fatalities and losses with Greece and Spain suffering deadly wildfires and floods.
Mark Maslin, professor of climatology at University College London, said: “2023 is the year that climate records were not just broken but smashed.”
“With record heatwaves in Europe, America and China, record ocean temperature and extreme melting of Antarctic sea ice we are now feeling the full impacts of climate change.”
Copernicus said there was above-average rainfall also over most of western Europe and Turkey, as well as in western and north-eastern North America, parts of Asia, Chile and Brazil, and north-western Australia, which in some cases led to flooding.
However, Iceland, northern Scandinavia, central Europe, large parts of Asia, Canada, southern North America and most of South America experienced drier-than-average conditions, it said, with these dry conditions leading to significant wildfires in some regions where it was unusual.
Following the same trend as in June and July, the month August was estimated to have been about 1.5C warmer than the preindustrial average for 1850-1900.
A temporary rise of 1.5C in the average global temperature is distinct from the Paris Agreement goal of limiting long-term global warming to 1.5C by 2100. On that long-term basis, temperatures have risen at least 1.1C, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has said.
During August, Antarctic sea ice extent was at a record low level for the time of year.
Friederike Otto, senior lecturer in climate science at the Grantham Institute for Climate Change, said: “Breaking heat records has become the norm in 2023. Global warming continues because we have not stopped burning fossil fuels.”