Climate change: a term we’ve become all too familiar with. But just when we thought we understood the pace of our warming planet, new findings suggest it may be heating up faster than we thought. According to a report on the BBC, four key factors may be contributing to this unexpected acceleration in global warming.
First, a ‘weird’ El Niño. For those unfamiliar, El Niño is a natural weather system where warmer surface waters in the eastern Pacific release additional heat into the atmosphere. The 2023 El Niño is believed to be releasing more warmth than previous ones as it follows an extended cool phase, the La Niña, during which the oceans absorbed record amounts of heat. Now, that heat is finally being released into the atmosphere.
Second, cutting some air pollutants aimed at cleaning the air that humans breathe, specifically aerosols like sulphate or dust, appears to be having an unintended warming effect. These particles reflect some of the Sun’s energy back into space, cooling the Earth’s surface. However, reductions in these pollutants seem to be raising global temperatures, especially in shipping hotspots.
Third, a massive eruption of the underwater Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano in January 2022 released around 150 million tonnes of water vapour (a greenhouse gas) into the stratosphere, potentially contributing to the warming.
Finally, satellite data showed that the sea-ice surrounding Antarctica is well below any previously recorded winter level. Fewer areas of bright, reflective ice mean more of the Sun’s energy is absorbed by the darker ocean surface, accelerating warming.
While these findings are alarming, they should serve as a wake-up call for us all. More than ever, it’s crucial that we take steps to live more sustainably. From growing our own food to composting kitchen waste, every little bit helps. After all, the fight against climate change begins at home. Let’s make a difference, one sustainable step at a time.