Breaking News
More () »

'An age of new normal': 2022 was the 5th hottest year on record

The Earth suffered its 5th hottest year in 2022 and climate scientists are thinking 2023 will be even warmer.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — According to NASA scientists, 2022 was the fifth hottest year on record.

From record heatwaves in Europe – it was the United Kingdom's hottest year ever – to record dry spells in California, 2022 was another year in the trend of warming climate and more extreme. 

Though individual events like the extreme heat Northern California suffered through in September don't really play into the final numbers too much, it's the frequency trend of those extreme events that really matter.

"The thing that we look at that's even more important is year-to-year, things will vary naturally," said NASA scientist Michelle Thaller at the Goddard Spaceflight Center. "But that long-term trend of the temperature continuing to go up is still there. It's very real and it's something that's not going away."

In California, it was the eighth hottest year on record and the ninth driest. This is despite the fact it was the 3rd consecutive La Niña year when the oceans are typically cooler and so too are global temps. 

With the El Niño Southern Oscillation expected to flip from La Niña to El Niño this year, climate scientists are concerned 2023 will be even warmer.

"It's likely that we'll go out of that next year and get back to something of an El Nino pattern," explained Thaller. "So we're actually thinking that 2023 may be significantly warmer than 2022."

All of this is occurring with a backdrop of a consistently warmer climate, and this climate change means more extreme drought but also more extreme wet periods.

"The warmer the air is and the warmer the ocean is they will intensify that even more," said Thaller. "You know, the ocean is warmer, it's evaporating more, there's more moisture to use, and then the warmer air can actually store more moisture in it... I think Sacramento this year is, right now, is getting a taste of that."

Hydroclimatic whiplash – or the extreme dry spells to the extreme wet spells that we regularly experience – has always been a natural part of the California climate, yet climate change is making these opposites worse.

"What we're entering is an age of new normal so I mean the climate is changing and that trend is continuing and it's not going back."

WATCH MORE ON ABC10: Hurricane hunters fly into atmospheric rivers nearing California

Before You Leave, Check This Out