Earth Just Briefly Passed a Feared Global Warming Milestone
Scott Dance - The Washington Post
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November 20, 2023

A man cools off with water in São Paulo on Sept. 20 due to the heat wave in Brazil. (Isaac Fontana/EPA-EFE)

The planet marked an ominous milestone Friday: The first day global warmth crossed a threshold, if only briefly, that climate scientists have warned could have calamitous consequences.

Preliminary data show global temperatures averaged more than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above a historic norm, from a time before humans started consuming fossil fuels and emitting planet-warming greenhouse gases.

That does not mean efforts to limit global warming have failed — yet. Temperatures would have to surpass the 2-degree benchmark for months and years at a time before scientists consider it breached.

But it’s a striking reminder that the climate is moving into uncharted territory. Friday marked the first time that everyday fluctuations around global temperature norms, which have been steadily increasing for decades, swung the planet beyond the dangerous threshold. It occurs after months of record warmth that have stunned many scientists, defying some expectations of how quickly temperatures would accelerate this year.

“I think while we should not read too much into a single day above 2C (or 1.5C for that matter) it’s a startling sign nonetheless of the level of extreme global temperatures we are experiencing in 2023,” Zeke Hausfather, a climate scientist with Stripe and Berkeley Earth, said in a message to The Washington Post.

Samantha Burgess, deputy director of the European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service, said Sunday on the social media platform X that Friday’s global temperatures were 1.17C (2.1F) above the 1991-2020 average, a record-setting margin.

Given how much human-caused warming had occurred by that period, that means Friday’s average global temperature was 2.06C (3.7F) above a preindustrial reference period, 1850-1900, she said.

The estimate of global warmth comes from a European model that uses the same sorts of observations used in weather predictions to instead look backward, and estimate global climate conditions nearly in real time.

Direct observations that scientists will gather and vet in the coming weeks could soon confirm the record warmth.

Read the rest at Washington Post

Related: A Sudden Spike in Global Warmth Is So Extreme, It’s Mysterious (Washington Post)

Related: UN Report Says World Is Racing to Well Past Warming Limit as Carbon Emissions Rise Instead of Plunge (Associated Press)

Related: Extreme Climate Change Has Arrived in America (Washington Post)

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