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Climate change unwrapped: 2023

Reflecting on the turbulent journey of our planet in 2023, it’s evident that the climate’s relentless march toward extremes has continued to intensify, presenting us with unprecedented challenges and raising alarming concerns.

The year 2023 announced its arrival with a series of distressing climate events. Canadian wildfires blazed ferociously, casting a smoky veil not only over the United States but even reaching as far as Paris, underscoring the global reach and impact of such calamities.

The alarming trend of rising temperatures persisted, culminating in September recording the highest global temperatures on record. At 16.38°C, it stood 0.93°C above the 1991-2020 September average, marking a staggering 0.5°C increase from the prior record in 2020. Such anomalies have positioned September 2023 as the most unusually warm month since records began in 1940.

Moreover, this year’s global temperatures have consistently surpassed previous benchmarks. The January-September period in 2023 witnessed temperatures 0.52°C higher than the average, surpassing the warmest calendar year, 2016, by 0.05°C. Shockingly, these temperatures now soar 1.40°C above the preindustrial average of the 1850-1900 reference period.

Europe bore the brunt of this heat surge, with September 2023 standing out as the warmest September ever recorded. With temperatures at a remarkable 2.51°C higher than the 1991-2020 average and 1.1°C above the previous high of 2020, the continent faced an unprecedented heatwave.

An alarming milestone was reached in November, when Earth’s surface temperatures surged to a stark 2°C above preindustrial levels for the first time. This starkly signifies the gap between our current climate and the historical norm of 1850–1900, a period that encapsulates almost all human history.

Not confined to the northern hemisphere, unprecedented heatwaves wreaked havoc globally. Brazil experienced record temperatures of 41.8°C in Cuiabá during its winter, while Switzerland recorded freezing altitudes surpassing Europe’s highest peak, Mont Blanc. Moreover, Agadir, Morocco, registered a scorching 50.4°C in August.

NASA’s Goddard Institute of Space Studies confirmed the devastating reality with the summer of 2023 ranking as Earth’s hottest since records began in 1880. The combined months of June, July, and August surpassed all previous summers by 0.41 degrees Fahrenheit (0.23°C) and stood a staggering 2.1 degrees F (1.2°C) higher than the average between 1951 and 1980. This scorching heatwave triggered deadly wildfires and heatwaves across continents, amplifying the urgency for climate action.

Simultaneously, concerning trends emerged across our oceans. The sea surface temperature in September exceeded previous records, reaching a peak of 20.92°C between 60°S–60°N, the second-highest temperature across all months since recordings began. These anomalies continued as Antarctic Sea ice extents remained at record lows, underscoring the alarming rate of polar ice decline. The United Nations Environment Programme highlighted soaring temperatures in Florida and the Mediterranean, reaching a sweltering 38°C and a record-breaking 28.7°C, respectively.

The critical need for immediate and comprehensive climate action looms larger than ever. As we conclude 2023, these distressing climate records serve as a clarion call for global cooperation and urgent measures to combat climate change before we face irreparable consequences.

The time to act is now.

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