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'A remarkable number': Earth sees its warmest 12 months on record

Areas of color show where temperatures have varied widely from the 1991-2020 normals. Red means warmer and blue means cooler.
Climate Central
Global Temperature Analysis
Areas of color show where temperatures have varied widely from the 1991-2020 normals. Red means warmer and blue means cooler.

This story appeared first in WFAE's weekly climate newsletter, which is out Thursdays. Sign up at WFAE.org/newsletters.

With a little over a month to go, it appears that 2023 will be the Earth's warmest year on record. The past 12-month period from last November to this October already ranks as the hottest, with global temperatures averaging more than 1.3 degrees Celsius (2.3 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels, according to the science and news organization Climate Central.

The news comes just before the United Nations climate conference, COP28, which kicks off Nov. 30 in Dubai.

The 1.3-degree rise is fast approaching the Paris Agreement's goal of holding global temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels to avoid the worst effects of climate change.

"It's a remarkable number. It's not a number that we would have without humans putting carbon dioxide into the atmosphere," said Andy Pershing, Climate Central's vice president for science.

"This is the hottest temperature that our planet has experienced in something like 125,000 years … the hottest temperatures that humans have experienced for the time where we've decided to write down things and build cities and live together in large groups," he added.

Nearly everywhere on the planet, temperatures were above 30-year normals. With the higher averages came heat waves — and Texas and Louisiana were most affected. Houston topped the list of U.S. cities hit hardest, with 22 straight days of extreme heat in July and August, followed by New Orleans (17 days), Austin (16), San Antonio (15) and Dallas (14). In these cities, the extreme high temperatures were at least five times more likely because of climate change, according to an attribution study by Climate Central.

In the Carolinas, Raleigh's average over the past 12 months was 0.9 degrees Celsius (1.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above 30-year normal ranges. Charlotte was 0.7 degrees over, and Columbia 0.5 degrees, above the 30-year normal.

Find the Climate Central analysis here.

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David Boraks is a veteran journalist who covers climate change for WFAE. See more at www.wfae.org/climate-news. He also has covered housing and homelessness, energy and the environment, transportation and business.