Record ocean and land heat continues in autumn as El Nino intensifies
Average sea surface temperatures were significantly high in October compared to the 1982-2011 mean and higher than any year since 1981.
New Delhi: Ocean and land temperatures continued their record-breaking spree in October. Sea surface and land temperatures have been at record highs for seven and five months respectively, data maintained by University of Maine’s Climate Reanalyzer shows.
Average sea surface temperatures were significantly high in October compared to the 1982-2011 mean and higher than any year since 1981 as per Climate Reanalyzer’s data. The trend started in April, a result of an intensifying El Nino in addition to global warming. Copernicus Marine’s data said that as of 20 October, sea surface temperature anomalies reached peaks of +3 to +5°C at various locations in the Mediterranean Sea.
September was the warmest September in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA’s) 174-year global climate record, NOAA said in a statement on October 13. September’s temperature propelled 2023 into the lead as the warmest year-to-date on record, according to scientists at NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI). There was no let up in October . Climate Reanalyzer’s data indicated that air temperature was also higher than global average temperatures recorded since 1981. But, the ocean temperature anomalies were far higher than those recorded for air temperatures indicating that oceans are absorbing additional heat.
“Oceans absorb about 93% of the additional heat from global warming. This ocean heat emerges during warm water events like the El Nino, which has been active since spring this year. During an El Nino, the warm waters surface over the entire Pacific, hence the sea surface temperatures remain high. The water is exposed to the atmosphere above, thereby pumping up global temperatures and modifying weather everywhere. This is also reflected as marine heatwaves in the Indian Ocean, affecting the local weather and climate of the region. We had La Nina conditions during the last three years, and neutral conditions before that, due to which the warm ocean heat content didn’t surface for a long time,” explained Roxy Mathew Koll, climate scientist at Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology.
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“Temperatures are abnormally high. This could be the combined effect of increasing greenhouse gases and presence of El Niño. These abnormal temps are however not unexpected. These are as per the model predictions made in the beginning of the year. Consequences are heat waves over both land and ocean in the coming months and associated damages,” said M Rajeevan, climate scientist and former secretary, ministry of earth sciences.
The year-to-date average global surface temperature was the warmest on record at 1.10 degrees C above the 20th-century average of 14.1 degrees C. South America and Europe had their record-warmest such year to date, with Africa seeing its second warmest. According to NCEI’s Global Annual Temperature Outlook and data through September, there is now a greater than 99% probability that 2023 will rank as the warmest year on record.
HT reported on October 11 that the world may breach the 1.5 degrees C warming threshold, or come close to it this year. Experts have said record temperatures are mainly a result of ongoing El Nino conditions which are expected to intensify further.
“Models are indicating that El Nino conditions will continue to become stronger over the next three months--November, December and January. We can say it will remain stable in January and February and weaken by monsoon. So above normal temperatures are expected globally which also explains the record temperatures this year,” said M Mohapatra, director general, IMD.
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IMD ‘s El Nino Southern Oscillation outlook states moderate El Niño conditions are prevailing over equatorial Pacific and the sea surface temperatures (SSTs) are above average over most of the equatorial Pacific Ocean. The latest forecast indicates moderate to strong El Niño conditions are likely to continue during the upcoming season.
El Nino years are characterised by an unusual warming of waters in the eastern equatorial Pacific, which has a high correlation with warmer summers and weaker monsoon rains in India. India also recorded its third warmest October since 1901 when it comes to maximum temperatures, as per IMD.
With the world set to breach the 1.5 degrees C threshold, stakes are high for a strong outcome at the upcoming UN Climate Conference (COP28) in Dubai. The first global stocktake on implementation of the Paris Agreement will be concluded at COP 28. The Global Stocktake assessment is a review of collective progress towards achieving the purpose and long-term goals of the Paris Agreement of keeping global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit it to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
“We already have seen a temporary breach, according to Copernicus data. September had an average surface temperature of 16.38°C. This was 0.5°C above the temperature of the previous warmest September, in 2020, and around 1.75°C warmer for the month of September compared to the pre-industrial reference 1850-1900 period, ,” Christopher Hewitt, director of WMO Climate Services,” said Christopher Hewitt, director of WMO Climate Services said on October 10.
“But it’s important to keep it in perspective. The Paris Agreement sets long-term goals to guide all nations to substantially reduce global greenhouse gas emissions to limit the global temperature increase in this century to 2 °C while pursuing efforts to limit the increase even further to 1.5 °C, to avoid or reduce adverse impacts and related losses and damages. The fact that an individual month exceeds the 1.5 °C limit does not mean that we will permanently exceed the 1.5°C level,” he added.
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