Ōtautahi – 2023 has shattered climate records, accompanied by extreme weather which has left a trail of devastation and despair, according to the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO).
The year has seen:
• 2023 set to be warmest year on record
• Greenhouse gas levels continue to increase
• Record sea surface temperatures and sea level rise
• Record low Antarctic sea ice
• Extreme weather causes death and devastation
The WMO’s latest climate report confirms this year is set to be the warmest year on record. Data to the end of October shows the year was about 1.40Cdeg above the pre-industrial 1850-1900 baseline. The difference between 2023 and 2016 and 2020 which were previously ranked as the warmest years is such that the final two months are most unlikely to affect the ranking.
The past nine years, 2015 to 2023, were the warmest on record. The warming el niño event, which emerged during the northern hemisphere spring of 2023 and developed rapidly during summer, is likely to further fuel the heat in 2024 because el niño typically has the greatest impact on global temperatures after it peaks.
Greenhouse gas levels are record high. Global temperatures are record high. Sea level rise is record high. Antarctic sea ice is record low. WMO secretary general professor Petteri Taalas says it’s a deafening cacophony of broken records.
“These are more than just statistics. We risk losing the race to save our glaciers and to rein in sea level rise. We cannot return to the climate of the 20th century, but we must act now to limit the risks of an increasingly inhospitable climate in this and the coming centuries,” he said.
“Extreme weather is destroying lives and livelihoods on a daily basis – underlining the imperative need to ensure that everyone is protected by early warning services.”
Carbon dioxide levels are 50 percent higher than the pre-industrial era, trapping heat in the atmosphere. The long lifetime of CO2 means that temperatures will continue to rise for many years to come.
The rate of sea level rise from 2013-2022 is more than twice the rate of the first decade of the satellite record (1993-2002) because of continued ocean warming and melting of glaciers and ice sheets.
The maximum Antarctic sea-ice extent for the year was the lowest on record, a full one million km2, more than the size of France and Germany combined, less than the previous record low, at the end of southern hemisphere winter. Glaciers in North America and Europe once again suffered an extreme melt season. Swiss glaciers have lost about 10 percent of their remaining volume in the past two years, according to the WMO report.
The report shows the global reach of climate change. It provides a snapshot of socio-economic impacts, including on food security and population displacement.
In 2023, global mean sea level reached a record high in the satellite record (since 1993), reflecting continued ocean warming as well as the melting of glaciers and ice sheets. The rate of global mean sea level rise in the past ten years (2013–2022) is more than twice the rate of sea level rise in the first decade of the satellite record (1993–2002).