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José Manuel Gutiérrez: "The trend is for our typical year to be like 2023"

​IFCA researcher comments on Copernicus report on the state of the climate in 2023 in Europe, which experienced its warmest year ever

In Santander, 24 April 2024

The Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S) has published the European State of the Climate 2023 Report, together with the United Nations World Meteorological Organization (WMO), which confirms the alarming trend of climate change impacts on our continent over the past year.

"Every year, on a regular basis, Copernicus summarises how climate parameters have changed around the globe, but changed on a European scale, with emphasis on the regional part in Europe, so that we have an idea of how anomalously high or low the year has been compared to the climate series," explains José Manuel Gutiérrez, researcher in the Climate and Data Science Group at IFCA (CSIC-UC), and co-coordinator of the CSIC's Interdisciplinary Thematic Platform on Climate (PTI-Clima). 

According to the report, Europe experienced its warmest year on record in 2023, resulting in heat waves, droughts and floods, all exacerbated by the El Niño phenomenon. "This has been the warmest year on record for the globe, not only in average over the whole year, but in many months, in particular the summer months, where we have exceeded one and a half degrees, compared to pre-industrial times, which is the threshold of warming that is set as a limit in the Paris Agreement", explains the researcher. "We should not warm above that level if we want to avoid drastic changes in the climate. The fact that we are already entering this scenario is starting to be worrying", he says.

According to the Copernicus results, "the temperature experienced by humans on the surface of the earth has been particularly anomalous, but the temperature of the ocean has also been very anomalous, it has warmed by almost 1 degree above average, and that is a lot, if we imagine heating a bathtub by 1 degree, that requires considerable energy, so imagine the whole ocean," says Gutiérrez

José Manuel Gutiérrez has also worked on the development of the Copernicus Interactive Atlas (CS3). / IFCA Communication

El Niño phenomenon

Climate change is not the only one affecting the climate on our planet, but the interaction with other processes can make this combined effect even more problematic and lead to more extreme effects, and "this year there has just been a coincidence of an increase in temperatures, which is already normal, with the El Niño phenomenon, which makes the ocean temperature in tropical areas warmer than average, and these two effects, coupled together, have made this over-elevation of temperature in the ocean has been so significant", explains the IFCA researcher. 

Arctic fires

According to the report's findings, rising temperatures have amplified the occurrence and severity of forest fires. "The danger of fires from the meteorological point of view is fuelled by the extreme temperature, but also by the precipitation deficit", explains Gutiérrez, "and there is an added problem, that the risk is greater does not mean there will be more fires, it depends on how forest management is done, etc., but there is an area in the world, the Arctic area, the boreal forests, where human intervention is minimal, all the Canadian or Siberian forests, where the capacity of human beings to intervene, extinguish and mitigate is more limited than in the Península Ibérica, for example. There we can see a clearer correlation between the risk of meteorological fires and what ends up happening when, by chance, huge areas end up on fire", he says. 

2023, a typical year 

Regarding climate trends in Europe, Gutiérrez warns that the problem of global change is "unequivocal year after year". "What we have already have are hints of what a world warmed by one and a half degrees would be like, if we lived in a world where we have predicted warming by one and a half degrees, assuming we are able to stop it, our typical year would be like last year," says the researcher from the Climate Group at IFCA. 

"This means that there would be years that would be as extreme for us above 2023, as this 2023 has been. That's the world we would live in in that scenario, which is the most positive and optimistic, almost unrealistic, of what we have at our disposal," explains Gutiérrez

The European State of the Climate Report underlines once again the need to make Europe climate neutral and resilient, and to accelerate our transition to clean energy and the uptake of renewable energy and energy efficiency measures. The European Union is committed to achieving climate neutrality by 2050 and has agreed targets and legislation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% by 2030.  

Rebeca García / IFCA Communication​
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