World Meteorological Organisation confirms 2023 as ‘hottest year’


A mother protects her child from heat while returning from the school in Visakhapatnam. File. Image for representation
| Photo Credit: The Hindu

In line with a host of observations by climate agencies in the preceding three months, the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) has officially confirmed 2023 to be the hottest year on record.

The State of Global Climate Report, published Tuesday, stated that the global average near-surface temperature was 1.45 degrees Celsius (with a margin of uncertainty of ± 0.12 degrees Celsius) above the pre-industrial baseline. It was the warmest ten-year period on record.

Also Read | World breached 1.5° Celsius limit for entire year for first time: European climate agency

The previous, joint warmest years were 2016 at 1.29 ± 0.12 degrees Celsius above the 1850–1900 average and 2020 at 1.27 ± 0.13 degree Celsius.

“Never have we been so close — albeit on a temporary basis at the moment — to the 1.5 degree Celsius lower limit of the Paris Agreement on climate change,” WMO Secretary-General Celeste Saulo, said in a statement, “The WMO community is sounding the Red Alert to the world.”

A typical day in 2023 saw nearly one-third of the global ocean gripped by a marine heatwave, harming vital ecosystems and food systems. Towards the end of 2023, over 90% of the ocean had experienced heatwave conditions at some point during the year. A global set of reference glaciers suffered the largest loss of ice on record (since 1950), driven by extreme melt in both western North America and Europe. Antarctic sea ice extent was by far the lowest on record, with the maximum extent at the end of winter at a million square km below the previous record year, an accompanying press statement noted.

The temperature records coincide with an ongoing El Nino event, a warming of the Central Pacific Ocean over 0.5 degrees Celsius, underway since May 2023. This was associated with below-normal monsoon rainfall in India as well as an absence of Western Disturbances in the winter that contributed to record-breaking heat in southern India during January and February.

“Decreased monsoon rainfall in southeast Asia is associated with El Niño. Onset of the monsoon over Kerala, India, occurred on 8 June, 7 days later than normal. By the end of September, India had received 94% of its typical monsoon rainfall,” the WMO report noted.

The only “glimmer of hope”, the report said, was increased adoption of renewable energy sources.

In 2023, renewable capacity additions increased by almost 50% from 2022, for a total of 510 gigawatts (GW) – the highest rate observed in the past two decades. Later this week, at the Copenhagen Climate Ministerial on March 21-22, climate leaders and Ministers from around the world will gather for the first time since COP-28 in Dubai to push for accelerated climate action. Enhancing countries’ Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) ahead of the February 2025 deadline is expected to be high on the agenda, as well as delivering an ambitious agreement on financing at COP-29 to turn national plans into action.

Also Read | 2023 was world’s hottest year on record, EU scientists confirm

“Climate Action is currently being hampered by a lack of capacity to deliver and use climate services to inform national mitigation and adaptation plans, especially in developing countries. We need to increase support for National Meteorological and Hydrological Services to be able to provide information services to ensure the next generation of Nationally Determined Contributions are based on science,” said Ms. Saulo.

NDCs refer to the commitments made by countries to lay out a time-bound programme to cut greenhouse gas emissions, primarily by reducing reliance on fossil fuels and transitioning to renewable energy sources such as solar, wind and hydropower.


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