June 15, 2024

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EU scientists say this year is “almost certain” to be the warmest in 125,000 years

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – European Union scientists said on Wednesday that it is almost certain that this year will be the warmest in 125,000 years, after data showed that last month was the warmest October in the world during that period.

The European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S) said last month broke the previous October temperature record, set in 2019, by a huge margin.

“The record was broken by 0.4 degrees Celsius, which is a significant margin,” said Samantha Burgess, deputy director of C3S, who described the October temperature anomaly as “extremely extreme.”

The heat comes as a result of continued emissions of greenhouse gases resulting from human activity, in addition to the emergence of the El Niño weather pattern this year, which is causing the temperature of surface waters in the eastern Pacific Ocean to rise.

Globally, the average surface air temperature in October was 1.7°C warmer than the same month in the period 1850 to 1900, which Copernicus defines as the pre-industrial period.

The record-breaking October means 2023 is now “almost certain” to be the warmest year on record, C3S said in a statement. The previous record was 2016, another El Nino year.

The Copernicus data set goes back to 1940. “When we combine our data with the IPCC, we can say this is the warmest year in the last 125,000 years,” Burgess said.

Long-term data from the UN’s IPCC includes readings from sources such as ice cores, tree rings and coral sediments.

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The only other time October broke the temperature record by such a large margin was in September 2023.

“September really surprised us. So, after last month, it’s hard to say if we’re in a new climate situation. But now the records keep falling, and it surprises me less than it did a month ago,” Burgess said.

“Most El Niño years are now record-breaking, because the additional global warming caused by El Niño adds to the ongoing decline of human-caused global warming,” said Michael Mann, a climate scientist at the University of Pennsylvania.

Climate change is fueling increasingly destructive extreme events. This year, that included floods that killed thousands of people in Libya, extreme heatwaves in South America, and the worst wildfire season on record in Canada.

“We must not allow the devastating floods, bushfires, storms and heatwaves we have seen this year to become the new normal,” said Piers Forster, a climate scientist at the University of Leeds.

He added: “By rapidly reducing greenhouse gas emissions over the next decade, we can halve the rate of temperature rise.”

Although countries are setting increasingly ambitious targets to gradually reduce emissions, this has not yet happened. Global carbon dioxide emissions reach a record level in 2022.

Reported by Kate Abnett. Edited by Jan Harvey

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Kate Abnett covers EU climate and energy policy in Brussels, reporting on Europe’s green transition and how climate change is affecting people and ecosystems across the EU. Other areas of coverage include international climate diplomacy. Before joining Reuters, Kate covered emissions and energy markets for Argus Media in London. She is part of the teams whose reporting on Europe’s energy crisis won two Reuters Journalist of the Year awards in 2022.

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Gloria Dickey reports on climate and environmental issues for Reuters. Its headquarters is located in London. Her interests include biodiversity loss, Arctic and cryospheric science, international climate diplomacy, climate change and public health, and human-wildlife conflict. She previously worked as a freelance environmental journalist for 7 years, writing for publications such as The New York Times, The Guardian, Scientific American, and Wired. Dickie is a 2022 finalist for the Livingstone Awards for Young Journalists in the International Reporting category for her climate reporting from Svalbard. She is also an author at W.W. Norton.