July 2023 will likely be the warmest in "hundreds, if not thousands of years" around the world, NASA's chief climate scientist said Thursday.
Several heat records have already been shattered in July, according to two tools from the European Union and the University of Maine in the United States, which combine ground-based and satellite data to create models that generate preliminary estimates.
While the two tools differ slightly from each other, the upward trends in temperatures are unequivocal and will likely be reflected in upcoming monthly reports from U.S. agencies with more consolidated data, NASA's chief climate scientist Gavin Schmidt said in an exchange with reporters.
On Wednesday, the European Copernicus Observatory had already warned that the world was on track for its warmest July since measurements began, after an already record June.
"We are seeing unprecedented changes around the world," Schmidt said. "Heat waves in the United States, Europe, and China are breaking records," he added. Especially since they cannot be attributed solely to the El Niño phenomenon, "which has only just arrived".
El Niño not yet responsible
El Niño is a cyclical climatic phenomenon that originates in the Pacific Ocean and causes global temperatures to rise, accompanied by droughts in some parts of the world and heavy rains in others.
Although El Niño plays a small role in current observations, "we have seen sea surface temperature records being broken, even outside the tropics, for several months now," Schmidt said. "And we expect that to continue," the climate scientist added, "because we continue to emit greenhouse gases into the atmosphere."
Current phenomena increase the likelihood that 2023 will be the warmest year on record. Such a probability is currently "50-50" according to Gavin Schmidt's calculations. But other scientists put the probability up to 80 percent, he said.
"We expect 2024 to be an even warmer year, as we will start it with the El Niño phenomenon that is accumulating right now, and which will peak towards the end of this year," Schmidt said.
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