The year 2023 has been one for the record books. Unprecedented heatwaves have been observed in various regions, particularly in Europe, resulting in record-breaking heat. The average global temperature for June was 1.47 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial average, making it the hottest June on record. The United Nations has issued warnings that these extreme heat events could break further records.
The cause of these extreme heat events is clear: climate change. The burning of fossil fuels is releasing greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, which trap heat and cause the planet to warm. Warming leads to more frequent and intense heatwaves, droughts, floods, and other extreme weather events.
The world is being ravaged by a climate crisis.
Ocean heat content has also reached unprecedented levels. This concerns scientists, as ocean warming has significant implications for marine ecosystems. This contributes to sea level rise and weather patterns worldwide.
The extent and timing of these changes have surprised scientists, indicating a potential disruption to the polar climate system and its delicate balance.
Researchers are finding it difficult to establish a direct link between extreme climate events and climate change. This is due to the inherent complexities of weather patterns and ocean processes. However, ongoing studies suggest that some worst-case climate change scenarios might already be unfolding.
Dr Thomas Smith, a climate scientist at the University of Bristol, is surprised that records are breaking earlier in the year. El Niño typically has its global impact around five to six months into the phase. However, this year, records were broken as early as June.
El Niño is a powerful natural climate fluctuation that occurs every two to seven years. It is characterised by surface water warming in the tropical Pacific Ocean. This warming causes changes in atmospheric circulation patterns, which can lead to changes in weather patterns around the world thanks to the record-breaking heat.
Climate models have predicted long-term climate trends. For example, climate models from the 1990s predicted global temperatures would rise by 2 degrees Celsius by the end of the 21st century. This prediction has since been confirmed.
However, forecasting specific weather events or conditions for the next 10 years is challenging for these models.
This is because the atmosphere is a complex system influenced by many factors, including natural variability and human-induced climate change.
Dr Smith emphasises that global temperatures are not expected to cool down. Instead, the trend of increasing temperatures is likely to continue due to ongoing climate change.
Scientists are particularly concerned about extreme heat in the North Atlantic Ocean. This is because the North Atlantic Ocean regulates the global climate.
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