NewsNational NewsScripps News


Record greenhouse gases make 2023 likely the hottest in 100,000 years

New data released Tuesday by a European Union group showed that 2023 was by far the hottest on record.
Record greenhouse gases make 2023 likely the hottest in 100,000 years
Posted at 8:11 AM, Jan 09, 2024

New global data determined that 2023 was the hottest year on record since 1850, far exceeding any prior year, according to the European Union's  Copernicus Climate Change Service. The record comes as carbon dioxide and methane levels were the highest ever in the atmosphere. 

The data showed that Earth had an average temperature of 58.964 degrees Fahrenheit in 2023, more than 0.3 degrees above the prior record set in 2016.

Even as Earth has heated up in recent decades, 2023 was particularly warm. The globe was more than 1 degree Fahrenheit warmer than the average temperature between 1991 and 2020. 

The average global temperature in 2023 was also 2.66 degrees warmer than the pre-industrial average set from 1850-1900. 

Copernicus said that each month from June to December in 2023 was warmer than the corresponding month in any previous year. It also noted that July and August 2023 were the warmest months ever recorded. 

SEE MORE: Wildfires in US have reversed 2 decades of progress in air quality

One big reason is the shift to an El Niño pattern in 2023. El Niño is part of a cycle when waters in the equatorial Pacific Ocean become warmer. But that also resulted in abnormally warm sea-surface temperatures across the globe, especially the North Atlantic. 

Meanwhile, Antarctica's ice caps shrank to record low levels. The polar ice caps in the Arctic were near record lows. 

Scientists placed blame on the rise in carbon dioxide and methane gases in the atmosphere. Carbon dioxide levels reached 419 parts per million in 2023, 2.4 ppm higher than in 2022. There were 1,902 parts per billion of methane gas in 2023, an 11 ppb increase over 2022. 

While the records only go back 173 years, scientists believe 2023 was the hottest year in at least 100,000 years. 

"2023 was an exceptional year with climate records tumbling like dominoes. Not only is 2023 the warmest year on record, it is also the first year with all days over 1 degree Celsius warmer than the pre-industrial period," Samantha Burgess, deputy director of the Copernicus Climate Change Service, said. "Temperatures during 2023 likely exceed those of any period in at least the last 100,000 years.”  

The data also noted that as the world shifted into an El Niño pattern, the world's abnormal warmth became exacerbated by the end of the year. Those trends are expected to continue at the start of 2024. 

“The extremes we have observed over the last few months provide a dramatic testimony of how far we now are from the climate in which our civilization developed," Carlo Buontempo, Director of the Copernicus Climate Change Service, said. "This has profound consequences for the Paris Agreement and all human endeavors. If we want to successfully manage our climate risk portfolio, we need to urgently decarbonize our economy whilst using climate data and knowledge to prepare for the future.” 

Trending stories at