In 2023, the world felt the harsh impact of climate change, with extreme weather events causing widespread devastation. Scientists identified the El Nino climate pattern in June, originating in the central and eastern Pacific. This pattern, known for influencing ocean warming and cooling, significantly affected rainfall patterns and global temperatures, contributing to catastrophic extremes in 2023.

Unprecedented temperature surge

Source: Aljazeera report on climate records 2023

The first 11 months of 2023 have seen a staggering rise in mean temperatures, soaring 1.46 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial average. This unprecedented increase surpasses the previous record-holder 2016 by a significant 0.13 degrees Celsius, solidifying 2023 as the warmest calendar year on record. The northern hemisphere experienced scorching temperatures during June, July, and August, marking the hottest summer on record with a global temperature of 16.77°C about 0.66°C above the average.

Cities like Toulouse in France reached 42.4°C, Agadir in Morocco experienced temperature rise to 50.4°C, and Phoenix, Arizona, witnessed 31 days surpassing 43°C, breaking the 2020 records. November 2023 marked a historic milestone, with Earth's global average surface temperature exceeding 2°C higher than pre-industrial levels for the first time.

Severe droughts followed by devastating floods

In the Greater Horn of Africa, five consecutive seasons of severe drought paved the way for catastrophic floods, exacerbating the plight of communities already grappling with water scarcity. The prolonged drought significantly diminished the soil's capacity to absorb water, amplifying flood risks when the Gu rains arrived in April and May. Meanwhile, in Central America and South America, a relentless long-term drought intensified its grip. Regions like northern Argentina and Uruguay experienced rainfall levels from January to August that were 20 to 50% below average. This precipitation deficit led to substantial crop losses and critically low water storage levels, compounding the challenges faced by local populations.

Extreme weather unleashed

Extreme weather and climate events, including floods, tropical cyclones, significantly impacted all inhabited continents. Mediterranean Cyclone Daniel caused flooding in Greece, Bulgaria, Türkiye, and Libya. Tropical Cyclone Mocha was one of the most intense in the Bay of Bengal. Typhoon Doksuri wreaked havoc in China, unleashing record-breaking rains, with 744.8 mm recorded at a Beijing reservoir, the highest since 1891.

Sea level surge

Source: 10 insights climate science

Alarming Sea surface temperatures coincided with a distressing drop in Antarctic Sea ice, 1 million km² less than the previous low. Glacial losses in North America and Europe, particularly in Switzerland, recorded a staggering 10% volume reduction over just two years. In 2023, global mean sea level reached a record high, attributed to ocean warming and glacier and ice sheet melting. The rate of sea level rise in the past decade (2013-2022) is more than twice the rate in the first decade of the satellite record (1993-2002).

Deadliest wildfires in a century

Source: The New York times

Hurricane Dora's gusty winds compounded preexisting drought conditions, resulting in the deadliest wildfires in the United States in over a century. Evacuations of 7,400 people occurred, with at least 99 fatalities and 2,200 structures lost. In Greece, northeastern wildfires blazed across 9,300 acres, marking the largest fire in the European Union. In Canada, the total area burned as of October was 18.5 million hectares which is more than 6 times the 10-year average from 2013-2023 and far above the 1995 seasonal total of 7.1 million hectares.

Projections for 2024

The record-breaking extremes witnessed in 2023 serve as a warning, signalling the looming consequences if society fails to curb its reliance on coal, oil, and gas. Scientists emphasize the relentless trajectory of rising temperatures, predicting escalating impacts of heatwaves and droughts. With El Nino expected to intensify in the Northern Hemisphere's winter, projections indicate the likelihood of further extreme weather events in 2024. This series of extreme climate events in 2023 highlighting the urgency for immediate action to combat climate change's catastrophic impacts.