The year 2023 was confirmed as the hottest on record, with global temperatures reaching 1.48 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, propelling the world dangerously close to the 1.5-degree Celsius limit set out by the Paris Agreement.
Analyses conducted in 2023 had already verified it as the hottest year ever recorded. However, new data published on Tuesday showed an alarming increase of 0.17 degrees Celsius over 2016, previously the warmest year.
The average global temperature in 2023 reached 14.98 degrees Celsius. Warming in the oceans also hit record levels.
Scientists repeatedly expressed shock throughout 2023 as successive heat records were shattered. They warned that the world is moving perilously close to exceeding the critical 1.5 degree Celsius threshold outlined in the Paris Agreement that nearly 200 countries pledged to remain below in 2015.
The European Union's climate monitoring agency, Copernicus, published the data and analysis. It projects that a 12-month period ending in January or February 2024 will likely surpass 1.5 degrees Celsius.
Scientists are more anxious about long-term warming above 1.5 degrees rather than individual years. Crossing that threshold risks ecosystems struggling to adapt and deadly heatwaves in some regions.
The unparalleled heat in 2023 was primarily caused by climate change but exacerbated by El Niño, a natural climate cycle increasing Pacific Ocean warmth, which typically amplifies global temperatures.
While some scientists said the 1.48 degrees Celsius rise aligns with last year's records, others remain surprised by how much hotter 2023 was than previous years. Exceeding the prior record by 0.17 degrees Celsius should serve as a wake-up call, said University of Reading climate professor Bill Collins.