(The Hill) — This year is on track to be the hottest on record, following a summer of record-breaking temperatures and a particularly warm September, according to the European climate agency.
Last month saw “unprecedented” temperatures, pushing 2023 on its way to becoming the warmest year by an estimated 1.4 degrees Celsius, or 2.5 degrees Fahrenheit, above preindustrial average temperatures, according to Samantha Burgess, deputy director of the European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service.
The data come as a warning sign, with Imperial College of London climate scientist Friederike Otto calling it a “death sentence.”
“This is not a fancy weather statistic,” Otto said in an email to The Associated Press. “It’s a death sentence for people and ecosystems. It destroys assets, infrastructure, harvest.”
Copernicus confirmed that last month was the warmest September on record, with an average temperature of 16.38 degrees Celsius, 61.48 degrees Fahrenheit, breaking the old record set in September 2020 by 0.5 degrees Celsius, or 0.9 degrees Fahrenheit.
Under the Paris Agreement in 2015, the world agreed to try to limit future warming to a threshold of 1.5 degrees Celsius — 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit — though this is for long-term temperature measurements rather than a single month or year.
“What we’re seeing right now is the backdrop of rapid global warming at a pace that the Earth has not seen in eons coupled with El Niño, natural climate cycle” that’s a temporary warming of parts of the Pacific Ocean that affects weather around the world, U.S. climate scientist Jessica Moerman told the AP. “This double whammy together is where things get dangerous.”
El Niño conditions arrived early in June, ahead of its typical timeframe in late summer or early fall. Forecasters are predicting El Niño will likely get warmer and cause even higher temperatures next year.
While El Niño is playing a role in these extreme weather events, Copernicus Director Carlo Buontempo told the AP that climate change itself is making a bigger dent in these temperatures.
“There really is no end in sight given new oil and gas reserves are still being opened for exploitation,” Otto said. “If you have more record hot events, there is no respite for humans and nature, no time to recover.”