All the alarms have gone off before what can happen this year with the world climate. The more than likely arrival of an El Niño episode can raise temperatures across the planet in ways never seen before. The Earth could increase its temperature to the critical threshold (1.5 degrees above the pre-industrial level) this very summer.
According to data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the last decade has been the warmest on record globally.
This trend is consistent with the long-term warming trend that scientists have been observing for decades, and it is largely driven by human activities such as burning fossil fuels and deforestation.
While it is impossible to predict the precise temperature for any given year, it is likely that temperatures will continue to rise in the coming decades if greenhouse gas emissions are not significantly reduced.
This could lead to more frequent and severe heatwaves, droughts, and other extreme weather events, which could have significant impacts on ecosystems, human health, and the global economy.
2023 could be the hottest
The clear weakening of La Niña, (which has been cooling the planet’s thermometers for the last three years), and the increasing probabilities (already close to 60%) that the Pacific will be dominated by El Niño starting in summer, have put meteorologists on alert.
Experts monitor the natural cycle of El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) in the face of a possible increase in global temperature, even above that registered last year.
La Niña conditions the climate of the planet for three consecutive years. “The first event appeared in 2020 and then linked to two others that have been modulating the weather so far,” explains the scientific meteorologist José Miguel Viñas.
Now La Niña shows clear signs of weakening and it is not ruled out that the child, finding free ground, takes over and recovers strength.
La Niña and El Niño are phenomena that modulate the Earth’s climate from the Pacific Ocean. La Niña tends to cool those waters and, consequently, the rest of the planet, while El Niño tends to do the opposite, warm them.
The phenomenon is repeated in a cyclical way, and is interspersed with moments of neutral conditions. Each of them can last between 2 and 7 years.
This 2023 has all the ballots to become a year of transition from La Niña to Niño, going through a neutral phase. The large international centres for monitoring the ENSO cycle have already made their predictions.
In principle, the February-March-April quarter has at least an 80% chance of returning to neutral temperature conditions in the Pacific.
Are the 1.5ºC already here?
The probabilistic models forecast the return of El Niño with a probability greater than 50% from the second half of 2023 when the normal thing is that said percentage is between 25% and 50%.
And although for the moment these models must be ‘taken with tweezers’, experts are already warning that, if they occur, it is likely that global temperatures will be reached 1.5ºC above the pre-industrial period.
1.5ºC is the level that the Paris Agreement established as a critical temperature threshold in the context of climate change. It is also the temperature that countries pledged not to exceed at the end of the century.
However, the signatories were also aware that there could be specific years in which the threshold was exceeded. “The important thing about this agreement is that it advocated stabilizing the temperature at 1.5ºC before 2030,” Viñas emphasizes.
Despite this, it is notorious that the Earth can reach that limit eight years before the established date.
As stated in the ‘Global Climate 2022‘ report from the Copernicus Climate Change Service, during the year the average temperature was 0.3°C above that of the period between 1991-2020 and 1.2°C above the that was recorded during the pre-industrial period (1850-1900).
unprecedented heat waves
Thermal anomalies will likely be higher than they have been in recent years, which may mean an increase in heat waves and a greater impact from storms and tropical cyclones.
Therefore, the planet could face unprecedented temperatures this year. Of course, for the moment, “everything is prediction” and it is necessary to continue monitoring to better understand the global phenomenon, the experts insist.
In recent years, we have seen several unprecedented heat waves around the world. For example, in 2019, Europe experienced a record-breaking heat wave, with temperatures exceeding 40°C (104°F) in many parts of the continent.
Similarly, in the United States, there have been several record-breaking heat waves in recent years, including one in 2021 that affected the Pacific Northwest and Canada, with temperatures reaching over 46°C (115°F).
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