Summer 2023 ‘highly likely’ to be hottest on record: Senior EU scientist

Summer 2023 ‘highly likely’ to be hottest on record: Senior EU scientist

‘Every single fraction of a degree matters’ when it comes to global warming, says EU climate service deputy head

By Nuran Erkul

LONDON (AA) – This summer is highly likely to be the warmest the world has ever seen, according to a senior official of the EU’s climate change program, a stark warning for a globe sweltering under scorching temperatures over the past two months.

Following all-time high temperatures in June and July, which is now the hottest month on record, it is highly likely that this will be the world’s warmest-ever summer, Samantha Burgess, deputy director of the EU’s Copernicus Climate Change Service, told Anadolu in an interview.

According to Copernicus data, the sixth month of this year was the hottest June on record and was followed by all-time high daily temperatures starting from early July.

July 6 became the hottest day in history, when global average temperatures hit 17.08C (62.74F), beating the previous record of August 2016, while the first three weeks of July were the warmest three-week period on record.

Global average temperatures reached 16.51C (61.71F) in June and hit 16.95C (62.51F) between July 1-23. The previous hottest July and month on record was July 2019, when the global average temperature was 16.63C (61.93F).

“There is a direct correlation between the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and global temperatures,” said Burgess, adding that climate scientists have not been surprised by the recent mercury spikes.

“Now, global temperatures are 1.2C above the pre-industrial average, and that is directly proportional to the amount of carbon dioxide and methane that we have in the atmosphere.”

Emissions of greenhouse gases are increasing due to various human activities, including burning fossil fuels, deforestation, use of fertilizers in agriculture, livestock farming, and the decomposition of organic material in landfills.

The global annual average of concentration of carbon dioxide and methane have been climbing, Copernicus data shows.

The figure for concentration of carbon dioxide reached 416.7 parts per million, while methane reached 1,894 parts per billion in 2022, the highest levels ever measured by satellite and the highest for at least hundreds of thousands of years.

Burgess warned that global temperatures will continue to increase, with August and the next few months likely to be warmer than average.

“We will need to wait until the end of August to do the statistics to understand if it is the warmest summer on record,” she said.

“But I think with the warmest June on record and record temperatures in July that really exceeded expectations of where we have been in the past, it is highly likely that this will be the warmest summer that we have ever seen.”

She said each of the first seven months of this year have been among the top five warmest for those months, with June and July in first place.

“If the Northern Hemisphere autumn and winter continue this trend, then it is highly likely that 2023 will be certainly in the top three years, if not the warmest year,” she said.

“But it really depends on what happens in the autumn and winter to come.”

- ‘Strength of El Nino to be clear in next six to 12 months’

Burgess said the record temperature levels are due to a combination of factors, stressing that there is no direct correlation with the developing El Nino weather system.

“We have had these extreme heat waves around the world, increased solar radiation and greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, and so all of these have combined for the record temperatures,” she said.

Sea surface temperatures are also increasing, Burgess said, pointing to the marine heat waves in the North Atlantic in May and June, and record sea surface temperature in the Mediterranean, which is expected to continue over the coming months.

A previous Copernicus statement said global average sea surface temperatures since May have been “well above previously observed values for the time of the year,” contributing to the exceptionally hot July.

“We have seen the development of this warm sea surface temperature off the coast of Peru and Ecuador. Now, that warm pool of water has migrated across the equatorial Pacific towards Australia and Indonesia,” Burgess explained.

“The expectation is that El Nino will continue to grow and there is feedback between warm ocean temperatures and warm atmospheric temperatures.”

As the El Nino continues to develop and strengthen across the Pacific, there will be “connections between the ocean and the atmosphere,” which will lead to “teleconnections outside of the Pacific Region, in other parts of the world like Europe,” she added.

According to the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, teleconnections are defined as “significant relationships or links between weather phenomena at widely separated locations on earth, which typically entail climate patterns that span thousands of miles.”

“We will understand the strength and severity of this El Nino event over the next six to 12 months. It is highly probable with El Nino that if it continues to develop, science is telling us that we are likely to have a warmer winter and that these global record temperatures will continue. It may not be the top, but it might be top five,” said Burgess.

As for extreme weather events, she warned that the frequency will keep increasing in the coming years, but the conditions, or where and when they happen, will not be identical.

“We have seen over the last months that the frequency of these events is increasing. This is why it is so important to cap out emissions and get to net-zero as quickly as possible,” said Burgess.

She said governments around the world committed to act to limit global warming, but the measures are falling short of what is needed to reach net-zero emissions by 2050.

“We are already at 1.2C above the pre-industrial average temperatures and working with a very limited budget left,” she said.

“We may overshoot that (1.5C threshold) but the reality is that every single fraction of a degree matters. So, all the action we can take as soon as possible will reduce global warming and get us to net-zero sooner. It will also reduce the impacts and stabilize our climate.”

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