Spurred on by the development of El Niño, 2023 is the hottest year ever recorded, according to the latest report from the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).
The WMO report indicated that the average global temperature in 2023 was 1.40 ºC above the pre-industrial average, eclipsing the previous temperature records set in 2016, also an El Niño year, and 2020.
We cannot return to the climate of the 20th century, but we must act now to limit the risks of an increasingly inhospitable climate in this and the coming centuries.
In 2016 and 2020, global mean temperatures exceeded the pre-industrial average by 1.29 ºC and 1.27 ºC, respectively.
The report also highlighted how the nine years between 2015 and 2023 were the warmest on record. Furthermore, record-high monthly temperatures were registered in June, July, August, September and October 2023. According to the WMO, July 2023 was the hottest month ever recorded.See Also:Insurance Needs for Olive Growers Change with Climate
“I’m not aware of a similar period when all parts of the climate system were in record-breaking or abnormal territory,” Thomas Smith, an environmental geographer at the London School of Economics, told the BBC.
“These are more than just statistics,” WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas added. “We risk losing the race to save our glaciers and to rein in sea level rise. We cannot return to the climate of the 20th century, but we must act now to limit the risks of an increasingly inhospitable climate in this and the coming centuries.”
The WMO said the emergence of El Niño in the Northern Hemisphere – where most of Earth’s land-covered surface area is located – during the spring of 2023 contributed to the record average temperatures.
The organization further warned that the natural phenomenon, which typically has the most significant impact on global temperatures after it peaks, would further fuel above-average global temperatures into 2024.
According to the WMO, the impact of El Niño is exacerbating a pre-existing trend of warming caused by anthropogenic climate change.
The organization said levels of carbon dioxide, a long-lived greenhouse gas, are 50 percent higher than the pre-industrial average. As their name suggests, greenhouse gases trap heat in the atmosphere and prevent it from escaping into space.
The Mediterranean basin, responsible for about 95 percent of global olive oil production, was particularly impacted by both record heat and extreme weather events, with temperatures in Italy reaching 48.2 °C, and record-high temperatures reported in Tunisia (49.0 °C), Morocco (50.4 °C) and Algeria (49.2 °C).See Also:Record Temperatures Will Threaten Global Food Supply, Scientists Warn
Furthermore, torrential rainfall resulted in flooding and damage to olive groves in Greece, Turkey and Libya, which also suffered a heavy loss of life.
This year’s record temperatures may also impact olive oil production in the 2024/25 crop year, with glaciers in the European Alps experiencing an extreme melt from which they are unlikely to recover in the winter.
Melting snowpack from the Alps in the spring is one of the sources of water upon which northern Italian and French olive growers rely, especially as spring seasons become hotter and drier. The same is true for growers in California with the Sierra Nevada.
Publication of the WMO report coincided with the start of the 28th edition of the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28) in the United Arab Emirates and is expected to influence the discussion over the urgency to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and find ways to adapt to climate change.
“This year, we have seen communities around the world pounded by fires, floods and searing temperatures,” said United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres. “Record global heat should send shivers down the spines of world leaders.”
“We have the roadmap to limit the rise in global temperature to 1.5 °C and avoid the worst of climate chaos,” he added. “But we need leaders to fire the starting gun at COP28 on a race to keep the 1.5‑degree limit alive.”