Scientist raises concerns after climate models fail to explain record heat last year: 'We need answers for why 2023 turned out to be the warmest year'

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The world faced its hottest year on record in 2023. Alarmingly, one scientist is saying that climate models fail to explain the full story.

What happened?

In 2023, the global average temperature was 58.96 degrees Fahrenheit, as news agencies reported based on data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. This is about a third of a degree warmer than the previous hottest year, 2016, and about 2.67 degrees warmer than the late 1800s, as the Los Angeles Times summarized.

While some of the increase can be attributed to El Niño and the changing climate, experts are scrambling to figure out what caused that extra three or four-tenths of a degree of warming, the LA Times reported, as reposted by

Some theories include the 2022 eruption of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai volcano and a change in aerosol shipping regulations (while designed to clean up the air, the alteration may have had the unintended effect of allowing more sunlight to reach the planet).

However, Gavin Schmidt, director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, told the Times that he doesn't think either of these theories truly explains the phenomenon.

He instead pointed to three other theories:

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• 2023 was simply a "blip," which he said is unlikely.
• Scientists have misunderstood the forces driving the overheating of the planet.
• The system is changing in faster and more unforeseen ways than previously understood.

"We need answers for why 2023 turned out to be the warmest year in possibly the past 100,000 years," Schmidt wrote in a recent article in Nature. "And we need them quickly."

Why is 2023's inexplicable warming concerning?

Scientists agree that rising global temperatures, supercharged by human activities, put us at greater risk for stronger and more frequent severe storms — our rapidly warming planet has even been compared to "steroids" for weather.

In fact, the United States suffered more billion-dollar disasters in 2023 than in any other year, the Times reported, citing NOAA. These included the Lahaina wildfire in Hawaii, Hurricane Idalia in Florida, and extensive flooding in New York.

Globally, some parts of the world faced devastating droughts that year. For instance, Somalia suffered its sixth year of its longest-ever drought, and about 43,000 people died from the conditions — half of them were likely children under five years old.

Meanwhile, major flooding in Liberia brought on by a tropical cyclone led to the disappearance of 10,000 people and at least 2,300 deaths.

What's being done about rising global temperatures?

Many countries are making changes to help curb rising global temperatures. For instance, Wales is banning most new roadway projects to reduce carbon pollution. Similarly, Scotland is using the "20-minute city" concept in certain urban neighborhoods to give residents easier access to public transit.

Plus, several innovative people are coming up with solutions to help adapt to the consequences of a warmer planet. For instance, scientists at Texas A&M are developing melons that are resistant to extreme weather.

Also, a tribal leader in Kenya has implemented digging crescent-shaped trenches in soil to help gather rainwater for crops in the face of extreme heat and prolonged droughts. Native grass seeds are planted in the wetted crescents, bringing important vegetation back to the land.

You can help curb our planet's rising temperatures by reducing your reliance on dirty energy — try using public transit when possible, eating a plant-slant diet, riding your bike, or joining a community solar program.

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