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Researchers declare summer of 2023 was hottest in 2 millennia: 'It's still an active area of research'

Each of the last nine years now has been hotter than any other.

Each of the last nine years now has been hotter than any other.

Photo Credit: iStock

Last summer was so hot that scientists were unable to find an equal in the last 2,000 years.

What's happening?

Using tree ring data from 1 A.D., a study showed the Northern Hemisphere has never been hotter, the New York Times reported.

The Times noted that El Niño, an undersea volcanic eruption, and even a reduction in sulfur dioxide pollution from cargo ships could have contributed to the record, whose root cause is the polluting gases from the burning of dirty energy sources such as coal, oil, and gas.

June through August was 2.2 degrees Celsius warmer than the average summer temperature from 1 to 1890 and 2.1 C warmer than 1850-1900, according to a previous study that reconstructed temperatures. That paper used 10,000 trees from nine regions above the tropics. It suggests preindustrial temperatures may have been cooler than is generally believed.

One researcher, who was not involved in the new study, told the Times historical records may be more accurate than tree ring data.

"It's still an active area of research," Berkeley Earth lead scientist Robert Rohde said. "This is not the first paper to come out suggesting that there's a warm bias in the early instrumental period, by any means. But I don't think it's really resolved."

Why is the record important?

On its own, the hottest summer ever is not a sign of crisis. But together with other data points, this one and others show a pattern of human-caused heating. 

Each of the last nine years now has been hotter than any other. The last three decades have been particularly damaging, doubling the rate of sea level rise and accounting for half of the 1.1 C temperature increase since 1850-1900, the World Meteorological Organization reported.

Extreme weather has and will always exist, but those events have been supercharged. Each degree Celsius of warmer temperature means the atmosphere can hold 7% more water vapor, per NASA. So, hurricanes, floods, droughts, wildfires, and other powerful, dangerous phenomena wreak greater havoc on our communities.

It's a positive feedback loop that has more than doubled the effects of what would have been created by carbon dioxide alone.

What's being done about rising global temperatures?

Corporations and governments must drive the changes that are needed to reduce the polluting gases that are rapidly heating Earth.

Individuals can help by sharing information with loved ones, engaging in local issues, and voting for political candidates who put the environment first. Big changes such as electrifying your home or switching to an electric vehicle are great, but small ones — including reducing plastic consumption, changing buying habits, and rethinking food — add up.

All this helps us move toward a cleaner future.

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