Jan 10, 2023 - Energy & Environment

The past 8 years were the world's warmest, report finds

Data: Copernicus Climate Change Service; Map: Erin Davis/Axios Visuals

The past eight years were the eight warmest years on record, and 2022 was the fifth-warmest on record globally, according to the European Union's Copernicus Climate Change Service.

Why it matters: The ranking, released Tuesday morning, shows the planet continues its long-term warming trend in response to growing amounts of greenhouse gases.

  • Each of the past 8 years had global average temperatures more than 1°C above the preindustrial level, as the world nears the 1.5°C guardrail established by the Paris Climate Agreement.
  • Studies show that the odds of potentially catastrophic climate impacts increase significantly if warming exceeds 1.5°C compared to preindustrial levels.

Of note: The third year in a row of La Niña conditions in the tropical Pacific Ocean helped depress global average surface temperatures slightly, keeping 2022 from hitting the top three warmest years.

  • There are signs, however, that La Niña may soon wane, and potentially give way to an El Niño event during 2023.
  • If this were to happen, it would raise the chances for a new all-time record warm year.

The big picture: Global average temperatures in 2022 were 0.3°C (0.54°F) above the 1991-2020 baseline, and the year was the second-warmest on record for Europe, behind 2020.

Between the lines: Studies tied these and other extreme weather and climate events to human-driven climate change.

  • Research published in September found that climate change may have increased five-day rainfall amounts in the hardest-hit areas of Pakistan by up to 50%.
  • Another climate attribution study found that the U.K. heat wave, which peaked in mid-July, was at least 10 times more likely to occur in today's warmer climate compared to the preindustrial era.

Of note: There were a fair share of precipitation extremes in 2022 as well, with the floods in Pakistan, extreme drought in the Horn of Africa that is pushing that region into a famine, and a series of record floods in Australia.

What's next: Annual numbers are expected later this week from NOAA and NASA.

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