World, Europe, Environment

El Nino, intensifying climate change to make 2024 another record hot year, scientists warn

World is in completely uncharted territory and 2023 showed that climate change is happening now, Carlo Buontempo, director of Copernicus Climate Change Service, tells Anadolu

Nuran Erkul  | 15.12.2023 - Update : 16.12.2023
El Nino, intensifying climate change to make 2024 another record hot year, scientists warn Tourists refresh at a fountain in downtown Rome, Italy, on August 19, 2023. ( Riccardo De Luca - Anadolu Agency )

- World is in completely uncharted territory and 2023 showed that climate change is happening now, Carlo Buontempo, director of Copernicus Climate Change Service, tells Anadolu

- With impact of climate change and El Nino, 2024 is on track to be another record-breaking year, says Buontempo

- 2023 on track to be warmest year on record and the expectation is that next year will be even warmer, says Sarah Kapnick, chief scientist at US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration


The world could see another record-breaking warm year in 2024 as global temperatures are on a path to continue rising due to increase in emissions and the impact of the El Nino weather phenomenon that peaks in winter and pushes up global mean temperatures to their peak, according to leading scientists.

The 2023 UN Climate Change Summit ended this week in Dubai with a deal calling on countries to transition away from fossil fuels, but could without any agreement on a phase-out.

That was despite the world living through its hottest year on record, with increasing emissions from fossil fuels playing a critical role in rising global temperatures.

“This year has been extraordinary. We had the warmest July on record, which was also the warmest month. Every single month since then – August, September, October and November – have been record-breaking months for that time of year. This is just unprecedented,” Carlo Buontempo, director of the Copernicus Climate Change Service at European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts, told Anadolu.

“We are completely in uncharted territory. The water of the oceans is at a record temperature, and we have not seen temperatures like these in our observational records that started in the 1940s, and in all likelihood, we have not seen anything like that in the last thousands of years. This is a new world and in this new world, we can expect different things from what we have seen before.”

According to Copernicus data, November 2023 was the warmest November globally on record and, with the warmest boreal summer and autumn, it confirmed 2023 as the warmest year on record.

Buontempo said the reason behind the record temperatures this year was a combination of the rise in global temperatures due to climate change and the El Nino impact.

“When we talk about climate change, we think it is something that will happen and, I think, 2023 demonstrated that climate change is happening now," he said, pointing to the heatwaves in oceans and the atmosphere, as well as intensifying drought conditions and more wildfires.

El Nino, which means “little boy” in Spanish, was first noticed by South American fishermen as unusually warm water periods in the Pacific Ocean in the 1600s.

Typically, El Nino impact peaks in winter, around December, and can affect weather significantly as the “warmer waters cause the Pacific jet stream to move south of its neutral position,” according to the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Areas in northern US and Canada are getting dryer and warmer than usual due to this shift, but the US Gulf Coast and Southeast regions see wetter conditions than usual with increased flooding.

Maximum in global mean temperature normally follows El Nino

Speaking to Anadolu, NOAA Chief Scientist Sarah Kapnick also confirmed that 2023 is on track to be the hottest year on record, adding that NOAA will make its assessment this month.

“With all these elevated temperatures that we have been seeing, there are two reasons that these have come about. One is that we actually had marine heatwaves with peaks in the early fall, and roughly 50% of the ocean was in a marine heat wave,” she said.

Heat coming from the oceans impacted temperatures on land, leading to 2023 becoming the hottest on record, she explained.

“We have also had an El Nino developing. El Nino starts really peaking in the winter and usually also leads to increase in temperatures worldwide by 0.1 degrees on an average,” she said.

Both scientists said peaks in global mean temperature normally follow the El Nino waves.

“We know that the maximum in the global mean temperature normally follows El Nino. We are reaching the peak of El Nino, and we expect it will decline over the spring,” Buontempo said.

“Still, 2024 is on track to be another record-breaking year. So, if we put these in the context of what is happening in our region, it is quite possible that we will see yet another very significant warming.”

Kapnick said they also expect global temperatures will continue to rise as El Nino peaks, putting the world in a position of a summer with elevated global temperatures and increased likelihood of heatwaves and other extreme climate events.

“So, 2023 is on track to be the warmest year on record, and as typically El Ninos lead to the year following, we have expectations that next year will be warmer than this year,” she said.

Global warming and weather patterns

While El Nino is impacting global temperatures, scientists have also been looking into if climate change-related global warming is changing El Nino patterns.

Buontempo pointed out that any statements on El Nino patterns and trends are constrained in their scope due to limited data and samples.

“However, there is something that we can say. It is related to the fact that El Nino now happens on the backdrop of a climate that is completely different. If we look at what has happened in this summer, the Tropical Pacific has gone up in temperature … but so has the North Atlantic and other parts of the Pacific,” he said.

“This is not El Nino, it is something else and it is very likely to be related to the warming of the climate system.”

Kapnick said there is debate within the scientific community “about how we should define El Ninos going forward.”

“It should not be just based on ocean temperatures, but it should be based on a hybrid of the ocean temperatures and also what is happening in the atmosphere,” she said.

As rising ocean temperatures affect fisheries and health of fish, the increase in global temperatures of the atmosphere affects people on land, as well as crops and agricultural productivity, she said.

“There is a move towards changing how we define it to capture both of those things,” Kapnick added.

Concrete risks ahead as emissions cuts delayed

Increasing temperatures are leading to intensifying extreme weather events, with heat waves, droughts, floods and other disasters claiming tens of thousands of lives last summer across the globe.

Buontempo, referring to findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the UN climate science body, said heatwaves are on the rise because of climate change, and they remain a very important risk for all land area in 2024, with concrete risks for more intense and longer droughts.

“We do expect drought conditions to become more common and more frequent. And this will happen gradually as the temperatures rise,” he said.

Kapnick said the impact of climate change will keep growing as long as there is a delay in cutting emissions.

According to the IPCC, emissions need to be cut by at least 43% by 2030 compared to 2019 levels and at least 60% by 2035.

However, the latest UN Environment Program report revealed that global greenhouse gas emissions increased by 1.2% from 2021 to 2022 to reach a new record of 57.4 gigatons of carbon dioxide equivalent.

“With every additional amount of carbon dioxide and methane in the atmosphere, we will see increases in probabilities and magnitudes of extreme events,” Kapnick warned.

Buontempo stressed that the way of controlling “the increasing temperature has been known since the late 19th century.”

“So, it is over a century that we know that if we increase emissions, we increase the water vapor in the atmosphere and so we increase the temperatures. The way in which we can control the impact (of climate change) is all about reducing the emissions of greenhouse gases and get to net zero,” he said.

“Ultimately, these are global problems that can only have a global solution.”​​​​​​​

Anadolu Agency website contains only a portion of the news stories offered to subscribers in the AA News Broadcasting System (HAS), and in summarized form. Please contact us for subscription options.