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'Way warmer than anything we’ve ever seen': 50% chance 2023 will be hottest year ever, NASA warns

A woman protects herself with a hand-held fan from the sun in Madrid, Spain, July 2023.
A woman protects herself with a hand-held fan from the sun in Madrid, Spain, July 2023. Copyright AP Photo/Manu Fernandez
Copyright AP Photo/Manu Fernandez
By Angela Symons
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The biggest impacts of El Niño will be felt between February and April, NASA warns.

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There’s a 50 per cent chance that 2023 will be the Earth’s warmest year on record, according to NASA experts.

And, with the biggest impacts of El Niño yet to be felt, 2024 will be even warmer.

Last month was the hottest July “by a long shot”, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) chief scientist Sarah Kapnick confirmed during a news conference on Monday.

Greenhouse gases produced by human activity were pinpointed as the main driver of warming.

2023 is shaping up to be a record-hot year

According to NCEI’s annual global temperature outlook, it is “virtually certain” 2023 will rank in the top five hottest years on record. So far it already ranks in third place.

With the biggest impacts of the Pacific Ocean warming phenomenon known as El Niño expected to be seen between February and April 2024, next year is likely to be even hotter.

Scientists fear this could help push the planet past the 1.5C warming limit and drive extreme weather events like drought, storms and flooding.

Earlier this month, the EU's Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S) confirmed that July was the hottest month ever recorded on Earth.

NOAA corroborated this on Monday, with figures showing temperatures were more than 0.2C higher than the previous record set in 2019.

“Last month was way, way warmer than anything we’ve ever seen,” said Kapnick.

Parts of North and South America, North Africa and the Antarctic Peninsula were especially hot, with temperature increases of around 4C above average, NASA's experts say.

Ocean surface temperatures also hit a record high for the fourth month running, which contributed to July’s record heat.

‘Mother Nature is sending us a message’

With the last nine years the warmest since NASA's records began in 1880, the space agency’s administrator Bill Nelson warned, “Mother Nature is sending us a message, and that message is ‘We better act now, before it’s too late to save our planet’.”

Warming temperatures have sparked a cascade of disasters from melting sea ice and sea level rise to wildfires, flooding and storms in recent months.

“What happens in the oceans does not stay in the oceans, it affects the whole planet,” said Carlos Del Castillo, chief of the ocean ecology lab at NASA.

While El Niño has exacerbated extreme weather events, the US space agency said human-made emissions are the lead culprit - especially over the past four decades.

“We expect many of these impacts to escalate with continued warming,” said Katherine Calvin, chief scientist and senior climate advisor at NASA.

“There are no political or geographical boundaries, we are all in this together,” Nelson added.

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