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2024 will probably be hotter than this year because of El Niño, NASA scientists say

<i>Brandon Bell/Getty Images</i><br/>Dee Lee
Brandon Bell/Getty Images
Dee Lee

By Ella Nilsen, CNN

(CNN) — As millions bake under a relentless heat wave in the South and Southwest US – and as temperatures soar around the Northern Hemisphere – NASA scientists warned Thursday that we haven’t even seen the worst of El Niño and next year will likely be even warmer for the planet.

Climate change, caused by burning fossil fuels, is unequivocally warming the Earth’s temperature, NASA scientists said.

And El Niño, the natural climate pattern in the tropical Pacific that brings warmer-than-average sea-surface temperatures and influences weather, has only just started in recent months and therefore is not having a huge impact yet on the extreme heat people around the globe are experiencing this summer, said Gavin Schmidt, a climatologist and director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies.

“It’s really only just emerged, and so what we’re seeing is not really due to that El Niño,” Schmidt told reporters. “What we’re seeing is the overall warmth pretty much everywhere – particularly in the oceans. … The reason why we think that’s going to continue is because we continue to put greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Until we stop doing that, temperatures will keep on rising.”

Last month was the hottest June on record for the planet, the EU’s Copernicus Climate Change Service reported earlier this month. Several days in July were the planet’s warmest in modern records kept by two climate agencies in the US and Europe.

All of that heat is adding up, and Schmidt said he believes there is a 50-50 chance that 2023 will be the warmest year on record.

But, he added, it is likely that a sweltering 2024 will exceed it, precisely because of El Niño’s influence.

“We anticipate that 2024 is going to be an even warmer year because we’re going to be starting off with that El Niño event,” Schmidt said. “That will peak towards the end of this year, and how big that is is going to have a big impact on the following year’s statistics.”

Scientists also discussed the devastating impact climate change is having on the Earth’s oceans, as North Atlantic Ocean temperatures have soared this summer.

“The oceans are running a fever,” said Carlos Del Castillo, chief of NASA’s Ocean Ecology Laboratory. “This issue with ocean temperature is not a problem that stays in the ocean – it affects everything else.” Castillo noted hotter ocean temperatures can make hurricanes stronger and make ocean levels rice due to glacial melt.

Schmidt noted that rising temperatures are in line with what scientists have predicted as humans burn more fossil fuels and pump more greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere.

“Even the things that are unprecedented are not surprising,” Schmidt said.

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