Hottest September Ever Recorded: 2023 Sets Alarming Heat Record

Even as October unfolds, the heat shows no sign of abating. Several European countries, including Spain, Poland, Austria, and France, have already shattered their all-time October temperature records.

Heatwave in Europe

September 2023 has cemented its place in the climate history books, shattering previous records and pushing the world closer to an alarming milestone. According to data from the European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service, last month scorched its way into the record books as the hottest September ever recorded. What's even more concerning is that this blistering September marks the fourth consecutive month of unprecedented heat, setting 2023 on course to become the hottest year on record, CNN reported. 

The numbers don't lie, as September outstripped the previous monthly record set in 2020 by a staggering 0.5 degrees Celsius. Copernicus, keeping tabs on the Earth's climate since 1940, has never witnessed a month so anomalously hot. Samantha Burgess, deputy director of Copernicus, aptly described it as "unprecedented temperatures for the time of year." It felt more like an unusually scorching July, with an average global air temperature of 16.38 degrees Celsius, making it 0.93 degrees Celsius hotter than the 1991 to 2020 average and a blistering 1.75 degrees Celsius hotter than the September average in the pre-industrial era, before the world's reliance on fossil fuels ignited.

This searing heatwave has pushed the mercury well beyond the 1.5 degrees Celsius threshold established by the Paris Climate Agreement to limit global warming. While the agreement focuses on long-term averages, September's abnormal heat has offered a chilling preview of what the world can expect as soaring temperatures fuel extreme weather events.

The impact of this scorching September has been devastating. It ushered in floods that claimed lives in Libya, Greece, Bulgaria, and Turkey, while Canada grappled with an unprecedented wildfire season. South America experienced record-breaking heat, and New York was drenched by record rainfall. Ocean temperatures soared, with average sea surface temperatures hitting 20.92 degrees Celsius, the highest ever recorded for September. Antarctic sea ice also reached record lows for this time of year.

Even as October unfolds, the heat shows no sign of abating. Several European countries, including Spain, Poland, Austria, and France, have already shattered their all-time October temperature records. Climatologist Maximiliano Herrera dubbed the extreme conditions witnessed in the first few days of October "one of the most extreme climate events in European history."

Now, it appears almost inevitable that 2023 will be etched in the annals as the hottest year on record, with the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration placing the odds at more than 93 percent. El Niño, the tropical Pacific Ocean's natural climate pattern, has contributed to the elevated temperatures, but lurking beneath is the unmistakable fingerprint of human-induced climate change.

The stark reality is that these temperature records continue to fall because humanity has not halted its fossil fuel consumption. Friederike Otto, a climate scientist at the Grantham Institute for Climate Change and the Environment in the UK, emphasizes the gravity of the situation, stating that "temperature records continue to be broken because we have not stopped burning fossil fuels. It is that simple."

As the world gears up for the United Nations COP28 climate summit in Dubai in December, there is a growing urgency to confront the climate crisis. A recent report indicates that the world is severely off track in meeting its climate goals. The significant margin by which September's temperature record was obliterated should serve as a resounding wake-up call for policymakers and negotiators. It underscores the imperative need to phase out fossil fuels if we are to mitigate the catastrophic consequences of climate change.