The summer of 2023 was the hottest on record, according to data from the European Union Climate Change Service released on Wednesday.
The three-month period from June through August surpassed previous records by a large margin, with an average temperature of 16.8 degrees Celsius – 0.66C above average.
Last month was the also the hottest August on record globally, the third straight month in a row to set such a record following the hottest ever June and July, the EU said on Wednesday.
August is estimated to have been around 1.5C hotter than the pre-industrial average for the 1850-1900 period. Pursuing efforts to limit the global temperature increase to 1.5C is a central pledge of the Paris international climate change agreement adopted by 196 countries in 2015.
July 2023 remains the hottest month ever recorded, while August’s record makes the northern hemisphere’s summer the hottest since records began in 1940.
“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,” said Samantha Burgess, head of the European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S) said.
“Looking at the additional heat we have in the surface ocean, the probability is that 2023 will end up being the warmest year on record,” Burgess said.
If the Northern Hemisphere has a “normal” winter, “we can almost virtually say that 2023 will be the warmest year that humanity has experienced,” she added.
“Climate breakdown has begun”, said UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, echoing famous testimony before the US Congress 35 years ago, in which government scientist James Hansen declared that global warming had begun.
“Our climate is imploding faster than we can cope,” Guterres added.
Also on Wednesday, the World Meteorological Organisation warned that more frequent and intense heatwaves are generating a “witch’s brew” of air pollution that shortens human lifespans and damages other life forms.
“Heatwaves worsen air quality, with knock-on effects on human health, ecosystems, agriculture and indeed our daily lives,” WMO chief Petteri Taalas said in a statement.
Record-high global sea surface temperatures played a major role in stoking heat throughout the summer, with marine heatwaves hitting the North Atlantic and the Mediterranean Sea.
In Europe, August was wetter than normal last month over large parts of central Europe and Scandinavia leading to flooding, while France, Greece, Italy and Portugal saw droughts that led to wildfires.
Well-above average temperatures also occurred over Australia, several South American countries and around much of Antarctica in August, the institute said.
Meanwhile, the global ocean saw the warmest daily surface temperature on record, and had its warmest month overall.
With four months left in 2023, this year is so far the second-hottest on record, only marginally behind 2016.
Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse
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