Due to a special weather phenomenon, experts are warning of a record global average temperature in the coming year – or even this year. The impending El Niño does not bode well, said Petteri Taalas, Secretary General of the World Weather Organization (WMO), at the presentation of the 2022 climate report in Geneva on Friday. Because the phenomenon has a warming effect, the global average temperature could peak as early as next year, Taalas said.

The El Niño event that is likely to develop over the course of this year “first of all increases the probability that 2023 and 2024 will match or exceed the previous record value of 2016 in terms of global mean temperature,” said Andreas Fink from the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology ( KIT). Helge Goessling from the Alfred Wegener Institute (AWI) in Bremerhaven takes a similar line: It could well be “that new global records will be set in 2023 or 2024”.

Karsten Haustein from the Institute for Meteorology at the University of Leipzig even considers it conceivable that the year 2024 “will also exceed the 1.5-degree mark globally for the first time on an annual basis”.

1.5 degree target already no longer achievable?

The countries of the world actually want to prevent warming exceeding 1.5 degrees as much as possible. This is what the Paris climate agreement says. But the climate protection efforts made so far are far from sufficient. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has shown that the target is likely to be exceeded for many years before the average global temperature falls again – but only if countries implement significantly stricter climate protection measures.

Records set in 2022 include a new low in Antarctic sea ice, a new peak in greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere, the largest glacial melt in Europe and the highest ocean heat content, the WMO report says. The values ​​always refer to the beginning of the measurements, which are several decades or more in the past.

Because of historical greenhouse gas emissions, it is already clear that these negative trends will continue into the 2060s, regardless of all efforts today, Taalas said. However, if ambitious climate protection measures are implemented now, there is a chance that warming will fall below the 1.5 degree target again after it has been temporarily exceeded.

The WMO confirmed that 2022 was the fifth or sixth warmest year since industrialization, at plus 1.15 degrees above the average for the years 1850 to 1900. The measured values ​​are so close together that it is impossible to distinguish them precisely. 2015 to 2022 were the eight warmest years.

Developments this year, and especially next year, are likely to be shaped by El Niño. “At the moment it looks very much as if a strong El Niño will occur again in 2023 for the first time since 2015/2016,” said climate scientist Haustein. El Niño is characterized by altered ocean and atmospheric currents and higher ocean surface temperatures in the Pacific. According to Haustein, El Niño has only a minor impact on the weather in Europe.