The latest climate report from the Copernicus Climate Change Service provides an overview of observed temperature patterns in May 2023. While Europe experienced temperatures close to its climatological average, other regions faced notable temperature extremes and exceptional weather events. The findings emphasize the importance of understanding and addressing the complex dynamics of global climate change.
Record global temperatures
Europe’s temperatures in May 2023 were generally close to the climatological average, with slightly warmer conditions in the western part of the continent and cooler temperatures in the central and eastern areas. The far northeast, however, saw temperatures substantially above normal.
Canada and the northern United States experienced a particularly warm month, with temperatures exceeding 10°C above average west of Hudson Bay. Numerous high-temperature records were broken, and extensive wildfires were reported from British Columbia to Nova Scotia.
Africa also faced unusually high temperatures, affecting regions including South Sudan, the Central African Republic, Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Several Southeast Asian countries recorded either the warmest day in their history or the warmest day in May. Similarly, much of South America experienced above-average temperatures.
By contrast, Australia found relatively cool temperatures, with the country’s average daily minimum temperature reaching its lowest point since 1944. North-west India experienced its eighth coldest average temperature since records began in 1901. Unusually cold conditions prevailed in a region that extends from northern India to Mongolia and southern Siberia, as well as over significant parts of the Antarctic Plateau and the Ross Ice Shelf.
An emerging El Niño signal in the tropical eastern Pacific contributed to these temperature variations, according to Samantha Burgess, deputy director of C3S. El Niño stressed that ocean temperatures are already reaching record levels, with May 2023 witnessing the highest average temperature ever recorded across all ice-free seas.
Hydrological Variables: precipitation patterns
May 2023 witnessed various precipitation patterns around the world. Southern Europe and western Iceland experienced above average rainfall, leading to severe flooding in Italy and the western Balkans. By contrast, drier-than-average conditions prevailed in regions such as the Iberian Peninsula, Denmark, the Baltics, southern Scandinavia, and western Russia.
Beyond Europe, large portions of North America, central Russia, eastern and southeastern Asia, the Horn of Africa, southern Africa, Australia, and South America all experienced drier-than-average conditions. On the other hand, southeastern and southwestern North America, southeastern Africa, southern Brazil, Pakistan, and New Zealand all observed wetter-than-average conditions.
Sea ice concerns
The extent of Antarctic sea ice reached a record low for the third time in 2023, registering a monthly value 17% below the average for this time of year. The Weddell, Bellingshausen and Northern Ross Seas witnessed the most significant decrease in sea ice concentrations, while the Amundsen Sea continued to exhibit above-average concentrations.
By contrast, Arctic sea ice extent remained close to average, with minimal deviation from May 2022 levels. The Greenland Sea experienced above-average sea ice concentrations, while the Barents Sea recorded below average concentrations.
Implications and urgency
The Copernicus Climate Change Service report of May 2023 paints a worrying picture of our changing climate. Record global temperatures, unprecedented sea surface temperatures, and hydrological anomalies serve as urgent reminders of the need for swift action to mitigate the adverse effects of climate change.
Experts stress that the emerging El Niño signal and rising ocean temperatures pose significant challenges to our planet’s fragile ecosystems. Policymakers, scientists, and individuals alike must work together to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, transition to renewable energy sources, and implement sustainable practices to safeguard the future of our planet.
As the climate crisis unfolds, it becomes increasingly clear that protecting our environment is not an option but an imperative. The May 2023 climate report should serve as a wake-up call, urging nations to prioritize environmental conservation and collective action to curb the potentially irreversible effects of climate change.
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