Article image

Record heat of 2023 likely exceeds that of the last 100,000 years

The year 2023 has been officially declared the hottest on record, surpassing the previous record set in 2016. According to data from the EU’s Copernicus climate change program (CS3), the global average temperature last year reached 58.96°F (14.98°C), approximately 0.3°F (0.17°C) higher than in 2016. 

Greenhouse gas emissions

This record-breaking temperature has raised concerns among experts about the proximity of global temperatures to the critical 2.7°F (1.5°C) limit set by international climate agreements, with greenhouse gas emissions identified as the primary driver.

The year 2023 saw devastating climate disasters like droughts, floods, wildfires, and lethal heatwaves, predominantly attributed to these emissions. 

Regional variations 

Despite experiencing a milder summer with frequent cold air and rain, the UK also witnessed its sixth wettest July and hottest June on record. 

This contrast illustrates the global nature of climate change, where regional variations do not negate the overall trend of rising temperatures.

Tumbling climate records

“2023 was an exceptional year with climate records tumbling like dominoes. Temperatures during 2023 likely exceed those of any period in at least the last 100,000 years,” said Samantha Burgess, deputy director of C3S. 

The Copernicus Climate Change Service, managed by the European Commission, compiles temperature readings from multiple sources, including weather stations, balloons, and satellites, to provide a comprehensive view of global air temperature.

Temperature extremes 

A concerning milestone reached in 2023 was that every day of the year recorded temperatures 1.8°F (1°C) above the pre-industrial average. Nearly half the days exceeded 2.7°F (1.5°C) above this level, with two days in November surpassing 3.6°F (2°C). 

While these figures do not yet breach the Paris Agreement limits, which consider longer-term averages, they set a worrying precedent for future climate patterns.

“The extremes we have observed over the last few months provide a dramatic testimony of how far we are now from the climate in which our civilization developed,” said Carlo Buontempo, director of C3S, emphasizing the profound implications for the Paris Agreement and all human endeavors.

Additional record highs

Not only did 2023 record unprecedented global temperatures, but it also saw new highs in atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide and methane, the two most crucial greenhouse gases. 

Sea surface temperatures also reached record levels, with August marking the highest global monthly average ever recorded at 69.76°F (20.98°C). While the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) contributed to these high ocean temperatures, it alone does not account for the entirety of the increase.

Action is needed

As the world continues to rely heavily on fossil fuels for energy generation into 2024, there is a growing possibility that this year could surpass the record set by 2023.

“If we want to successfully manage our climate risk portfolio, we need to urgently decarbonize our economy whilst using climate data and knowledge to prepare for the future,”  Buontempo urged. 

This call to action highlights the urgency of transitioning to sustainable energy sources and the critical role of climate data in shaping future policies and mitigation strategies.

Like what you read? Subscribe to our newsletter for engaging articles, exclusive content, and the latest updates.


Check us out on EarthSnap, a free app brought to you by Eric Ralls and

News coming your way
The biggest news about our planet delivered to you each day