Earlier this week, the European Union’s Earth science team came out with its analysis of 2023’s global temperatures, finding it was the warmest year on record to date. In an era of global warming, that’s not especially surprising. What was unusual was how 2023 set its record—every month from June on coming in far above any equivalent month in the past—and the size of the gap between 2023 and any previous year on record.
The Copernicus dataset used for that analysis isn’t the only one of the sort, and on Friday, Berkeley Earth, NASA, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration all released equivalent reports. And all of them largely agree with the EU’s: 2023 was a record, and an unusual one at that. So unusual that NASA’s chief climate scientist, Gavin Schmidt, introduced his look at 2023 by saying, “We’re frankly astonished.”
Despite the overlaps with the earlier analysis, each of the three new ones adds some details that flesh out what made last year so unusual.
Each of the three analyses uses slightly different methods to do things like fill in areas of the globe where records are sparse, and uses a different baseline. Berkeley Earth was the only team to do a comparison with pre-industrial temperatures, using a baseline of the 1850–1900 temperatures. Its analysis suggests that this is the first year to finish over 1.5° C above preindustrial temperatures.
Most countries have committed to an attempt to keep temperatures from consistently coming in above that point. So, at one year, we’re far from consistently failing our goals. But there’s every reason to expect that we’re going to see several more years exceeding this point before the decade is out. And that clearly means we have a very short timeframe before we get carbon emissions to drop, or we’ll commit to facing a difficult struggle to get temperatures back under this threshold by the end of the century. [Continue reading…]