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UN Issues ‘Red Alert’ as 2023 Shatters Global Heat Records

Last year witnessed the shattering of every major global climate record, according to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), which expressed particular concern about rising ocean temperatures and diminishing sea ice.

In its annual State of the Global Climate report released on Tuesday, the UN weather agency revealed that average temperatures reached the highest levels in the 174 years of recorded history, surpassing pre-industrial levels by a significant margin of 1.45 degrees Celsius.

The report also highlighted that ocean temperatures hit a 65-year high, with more than 90% of the world’s seas experiencing heatwave conditions throughout the year, adversely impacting food systems.

Celeste Saulo, the newly appointed Secretary-General of the WMO, issued a stark warning, stating, “The WMO community is sounding the Red Alert to the world. The unprecedented ocean warmth, glacier retreat, and Antarctic sea ice loss witnessed in 2023 are causes for profound concern.”

Attributing the record-breaking year to climate change exacerbated by fossil fuel combustion and the natural El Niño phenomenon, scientists cautioned that 2024 might witness even more extreme conditions, with El Niño expected to elevate temperatures in the early months of the year.

The report revealed a significant decline in Antarctic sea ice, with levels plummeting by 1 million km2 below the previous record—a territory roughly equivalent to the size of Egypt. This decline, coupled with ocean warming leading to water expansion, has resulted in a sea-level rise rate more than doubling over the past decade compared to the 1993-2002 period.

The North Atlantic bore the brunt of ocean heat, with temperatures averaging 3 degrees Celsius above normal by late 2023, impacting fragile marine ecosystems. Many fish species migrated northward in search of cooler waters as a result.

Saulo, a meteorologist from Argentina who pledged to bolster global climate disaster warning systems, expressed hope that the report would galvanize efforts to urgently and ambitiously address climate change.

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