Northern Hemisphere Shatters 2,000-Year Temperature Record: 2023 Summer Stands Out as an Alarming Outlier


Unprecedented Global Temperatures: 2023 Stands Out in 2,000-Year Northern Hemisphere Record

The year 2023 has been marked by an unprecedented streak of extreme global temperatures, with every month since June 2022 setting new records for the hottest temperatures ever recorded for that particular month. This 11-month streak has not only ensured that 2023 was the hottest year on record but also suggests that 2024 will likely follow suit. A recent study by three European researchers, Jan Esper, Max Torbenson, and Ulf Büntgen, has shed light on the exceptional nature of this warming, revealing that the Northern Hemisphere hasn't experienced anything like this in over 2,000 years.

While current temperature records rely on a global network of data-gathering hardware, the availability of this network diminishes as we move back in time. To overcome this limitation, researchers use proxies, such as tree rings or oxygen isotope ratios in ice, to estimate global and regional temperatures before the instrument record began. These proxy records, although somewhat inexact, provide valuable insights into past temperature trends.

Esper, Torbenson, and Büntgen focused their analysis on the Northern Hemisphere above 30° north, where the best temperature and proxy records are available. By aligning the temperature record with the proxy record, they found that the summer of 2023 was approximately 2.3°C above pre-industrial temperatures from the 1850–1900 period.

Comparing the summer of 2023 to the 2,000-year proxy record revealed its truly extreme nature. The warmest summer in the proxy record, CE 246, was only 0.97°C above the 2,000-year average, making it about 1.2°C cooler than 2023. Even when considering the uncertainties in the proxy records, the summer of 2023 remains more than half a degree warmer than the maximum temperature within the 95 percent confidence range of the proxies.

While this analysis is limited to comparing a portion of one year to centuries of proxies and is restricted to one area of the globe, it provides a compelling early indication of the exceptional nature of recent greenhouse warming. As more data becomes available, researchers will be able to consider additional proxies and gain a better perspective on the global extent and duration of these extreme temperatures.

The findings of this study serve as a stark reminder of the urgent need to address human-driven climate change. As the world continues to experience record-breaking temperatures, it is crucial that we take decisive action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and mitigate the impacts of global warming. Only through concerted efforts at the individual, national, and international levels can we hope to prevent further warming and protect our planet for future generations.