2023 was the warmest year in the 174 years of global temperature record-keeping. According to some analyses, it may have been the warmest year in the past 125,000 years.
There were incredible heatwaves in Arizona and Argentina. There were relentless wildfires across Canada. The wintertime ice coverage in the seas surrounding Antarctica was at unprecedented lows
The global temperatures in 2023 did not just beat prior records; they smashed them. Every month from June through November set all-time monthly temperature records. The US Northeast saw springlike temperatures at the end of the year. The high temperature in Buffalo, New York on Christmas Day was 58 degrees.
Climate scientists have been predicting the warming trend that has been ongoing over the past several decades. Indeed, computational models for 2023 called for a warm year. Various models had a variety of projected temperatures and 2023’s heat was still broadly within the range of what was projected, although certainly at the high end.
The question is whether last year was an indicator that the planet’s warming is accelerating faster than we expect or that it just was a particularly warm year because of cyclical factors such as the El Niño that appeared last spring.
One theory that is being explored is that various types of industrial pollution have previously actually served to cool the atmosphere over time and as those sources are reduced for public health reasons, the warming effects of greenhouse gases have accelerated.
Currently, there is no consensus about why it seems to be getting warmer even faster than many climate models predict. What there is no doubt about is that it is not a good thing.
Photo, posted June 8, 2023, courtesy of Anthony Quintano via Flickr.