2023 was the warmest year since records started in 1850, according to data from the Met Office and the University of East Anglia, UK. Last year was the tenth year in succession to exceed 1.0 °C above the pre-industrial period (1850-1900).
The global average temperature for 2023 was 1.46 °C higher than the pre-industrial baseline and 0.17 °C warmer than 2016, the previous warmest year. “2023 is now confirmed as the warmest year on average over the globe in 174-years of observation. 2023 also set a series of monthly records, monthly global average temperatures having remained at record levels since June. Ocean surface temperatures have remained at record levels since April,” said Dr Colin Morice, a Climate Monitoring and Research Scientist with the Met Office. “Year-to-year variations sit on a background of around 1.25 °C warming in global average temperatures above pre-industrial levels. This warming is attributable to human-induced climate change through greenhouse gas emissions.”
In addition to the long-term warming caused by climate change, a transition into El Niño conditions increased temperatures even further for the last few months of the year. El Niño can add up to 0.2 °C to the temperature of an individual year. Between 2021 and 2022, we had the opposite effect —La Niña— which lowered global average temperatures in 2021 and 2022.
“It is striking that the temperature record for 2023 has broken the previous record set in 2016 by so much because the main effect of the current El Niño will come in 2024. Consistent with this, the Met Office’s 2024 temperature forecast shows this year has strong potential to be another record-breaking year,” said Professor Adam Scaife, a Principal Fellow and Head of Monthly to Decadal Prediction at the Met Office. The Met Office is predicting the temperature for 2024 to be between 1.34 °C and 1.58 °C above the average for the pre-industrial period (1850-1900). This would make 2024 the 11th year in succession that temperatures will have reached at least 1.0 °C above pre-industrial levels.
In a recent paper published in Nature, Met Office scientist Prof Richard Betts and coauthors suggested using the last ten years of global temperatures and comparing them with projections for the next ten years to see how far away we are from the Paris Agreement goals. Using this method, the researchers found that the value for the current global warming level, relevant to the Paris Agreement, is around 1.26 °C.
“Twenty-five years ago, 1998 was a record-breaking year for global average temperature. But last year’s global temperature was 0.5 °C warmer than 1998, providing further evidence that our planet is warming on average by 0.2 °C per decade,” said Professor Tim Osborn of the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit. “At the current rate of human-induced warming, 2023’s record-breaking values will in time be considered to be cool in comparison with what projections of our future climate suggest.”