The Copernicus Institute released its monthly report on changes to global average surface temperatures, with results showing 2023 is on track to be the warmest on record.
- Copernicus analysis suggests 1.5°C limits set as a goal in the international climate agreements have already been breached.
- The anomalous temperatures, combined with the increase in extreme weather, supports the hypothesis that the increasing number of extreme weather events are being driven by climate change.
- Extreme heat is already having an impact on economic activity and the World Meteorological Association has warned this is becoming the ‘new normal’.
The results have been really quite shocking, with average September temperatures 0.5 degrees above the level measured just three years ago and 1.75 degrees above the pre-industrial reference period.
According to Samantha Burgess, Deputy Director of the Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S): “The unprecedented temperatures for the time of year observed in September – following a record summer – have broken records by an extraordinary amount. This extreme month has pushed 2023 into the dubious honour of first place – on track to be the warmest year and around 1.4°C above preindustrial average temperatures. Two months out from COP28 – the sense of urgency for ambitious climate action has never been more critical.”
The results for September 2023
September 2023 was the warmest September on record globally, with an average surface air temperature of 16.38°C, 0.93°C above the 1991-2020 average for September and 0.5°C above the temperature of the previous warmest September, in 2020.
September 2023 global temperature was the most anomalous warm month of any year in the ERA5 dataset (which dates back to 1940). The month as a whole was around 1.75°C warmer than the September average for 1850-1900, the preindustrial reference period.
Not only that, but the global temperature for January-September 2023 was 0.52°C higher than average, and 0.05°C higher than the equivalent period in the warmest calendar year (2016). For January to September 2023, the global mean temperature for 2023 to date is 1.40°C higher than the preindustrial average (1850-1900), dangerously close to the goal of the Paris Agreement for 2050.
For Europe, September 2023 was the warmest September on record, at 2.51°C higher than the 1991-2020 average, and 1.1°C higher than 2020, the previous warmest September. The average sea surface temperature for September over 60°S–60°N reached 20.92°C, the highest on record for September and the second highest across all months, behind August 2023.
Where does the data come from?
The Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S), implemented by the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts on behalf of the European Commission with funding from the EU, routinely publishes monthly climate bulletins.
These report on the changes observed in global surface air temperature, sea ice cover and hydrological variables. All the reported findings are based on computer-generated analyses using billions of measurements from satellites, ships, aircraft and weather stations around the world.
While the extreme weather events over the last eighteen months have driven growing mainstream focus on the impacts of climate change, it is shocking to see that average temperatures are so high – especially when they are considered in relation to the overall international goal to keep global temperatures to an average of 2°C over pre-industrial times, with a goal of 1.5°C. Given that September averages saw 1.4°C, it appears as if the goal is well out of reach.
What remains a concern is the way in which failure to act on climate change today will drive, not only further extreme weather events with their human and economic cost, but more extreme measures to curb emissions when governments (and the financial system) finally wake up to the risks they face.