November is the sixth straight month to set a heat record, scientists say

Beachgoers are framed against the setting sun at the end of a warm day in Huntington Beach.
Beachgoers are framed against the setting sun at the end of a warm day in Huntington Beach. Scientists say that November was the sixth straight month to set a heat record.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

For the sixth month in a row, Earth set a new monthly record for heat and also added the hottest autumn to this year’s litany of record-breaking temperatures, the European climate agency calculated.

And with only one month left, 2023 is on the way to smashing the record for hottest year.

November was nearly 0.57 degrees hotter than the previous hottest November, the European Space Agency’s Copernicus Climate Change Service announced early Wednesday. November was 3.15 degrees warmer than pre-industrial times, tying October and behind September for the most above the average for any month, the scientists said.


“The last half-year has truly been shocking,” said Copernicus Deputy Director Samantha Burgess. “Scientists are running out of adjectives to describe this.’’

November averaged 57.6 degrees, which is 1.5 degrees warmer than the average during the last 30 years. Two days during the month were 3.6 degrees warmer than pre-industrial times, something that hadn’t happened before, according to Burgess.

So far, this year is 2.6 degrees warmer than pre-industrial times, about one-seventh of a degree warmer than the previous warmest year of 2016, Copernicus scientists calculated. That’s very close to the international threshold that the world has set for climate change.

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The 2015 Paris climate agreement set a goal of limiting global warming to 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit above pre-industrial times over the long term and, failing that, no more than 3.6 degrees. Diplomats, scientists, activists and others meeting at the United Nations climate conference in Dubai for nearly two weeks are trying to find ways to limit warming to those levels.

But scientists calculate that, with the promises countries around the world have made and the actions they have taken, Earth is on track to warm 4.9 to 5.2 degrees above pre-industrial times.


The northern autumn is also the hottest fall the world has had on record, Copernicus calculated.

Copernicus records go back to 1940. The U.S. government’s records go back to 1850. Scientists using proxies such as ice cores, tree rings and corals have said that this is the warmest decade Earth has seen in about 125,000 years, dating back before human civilization. And the last several months have been the hottest of the last decade.

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Scientists say there are two driving forces behind the six straight record hottest months in a row. One is human-caused climate change from the burning of coal, oil and gas. That’s like an escalator. But the natural El Niño-La Niña is like jumping up or down on that escalator.

The world is in a potent El Niño, which is a temporary warming of parts of the central Pacific that changes weather worldwide and that adds to global temperatures already spiked by climate change.

It’s only going to get warmer as long as the world keeps pouring greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, Burgess said. That means that “catastrophic floods, fires, heat waves, droughts will continue,” she said.

“2023 is very likely to be a cool year in the future unless we do something about our dependence on fossil fuels,” Burgess said.