2023 could be a watershed moment in the climate history of our planet.
Significant global climatological records are breaking rapidly, a trend most likely to go on in the future years as the oceans and atmosphere of the world rebound rapidly following a triple La Niña episode.
2023 has seen record-breaking high global ocean temperatures and record-low Antarctic sea ice. And in recent days, a sudden surge of super-high air temperatures can propel the year to emerge as the warmest on record.
2023 is rapidly heating up
Global air temperatures have been above the baseline average throughout the year, developing a platform that challenges the current yearly record from 2016.
Data received from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration [abbreviated NOAA] reflects the year-to-date ranking for this year is currently the fourth (behind 2016, 2017, and 2020).
While May was globally the second/third warmest on record — based on the dataset used — preliminary data for June reflects the air temperature of the world has been at super-high levels.
June 10 has reportedly set a new record at 0.4C above the earlier record observed on the day, at 16.8C.
As the Pacific transitions to El Niño from La Niña, 2023’s ranking will rise.
And based on the historical figures of how the El Niño years evolved, this year could finish up as the warmest year yet on record, passing the current warmest year recorded to be 2016.
In recent moderate to strong El Niño events (2015, 2009, and 1997), the eventual yearly temperature was 0.05 – 0.10C warmer than in the January-May values, Blair Trewin, the Bureau of Meteorology senior climatologist, explained.
A similar outcome this year would see the record of 2016 surpassed.
Oceans simmer via record-warm April and May.
While air temperatures have only started reaching unforeseen levels, satellite data reflects 2023 has seen an extended run of record-warm ocean temperatures globally.
The global sea surface temperatures [SST] of April and May were the warmest observed on record for their respective months, Trewin said.
For the year-to-date [January–May], global SST has been the third-warmest observed on record, just behind 2019 and 2020.
June is on track to break the monthly record, as daily values have run at a staggering 0.2C above the earlier global high.
The trend reflects no sign of slowing, with 2023 likely the hottest on record for the oceans.
This is a surprising result, as historically, the rebound from the cooler La Niña years hasn’t taken place so fast.
Historically, looking at La Niña events, ocean and global air temperatures have been comparatively cool, Trewin explained.
But regarding global SST, the seven warmest years recorded started in 2016.
Rising surface temperatures indicate a La Niña year was warmer than El Niño in 1980.
North Atlantic is also playing a crucial role in 2023’s surprise global warmth; the graph of SSTs shows the latest surge into the unforeseen territory.
Antarctic sea-ice shrinking
One of the most crucial effects of warm oceans is the absence of sea-ice buildup around Antarctica.
This summer, the minimum sea ice was recorded at a new low. At the same time, waters surrounding Antarctica are unsuccessful in freezing at the usual rate when headed into the winter.
The deficit of ice for mid-June is almost 1 million sq km below the earlier record, larger than New South Wales, and would have a probability of taking place randomly once in a thousand years.
Trewin said that it could be confirmed that the sea-ice extent is so far the lowest on record. He added that it was approximately four standard deviations below the mean expected in the long run.
The absence of ice reflects a surprising shift from the trend in recent decades when the Antarctic sea ice had not reflected a climate-change-driven reduction like what was observed at the North Pole.
Trewin is sure that warmer waters are mostly responsible for this, as they show movements to the south, notably across the Antarctic Circumpolar Current in the oceans of southern India, southwest Pacific, and south Atlantic.
References: ABCnet, Washington post
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