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NASA studying atmosphere after warmest year on record

CHARLOTTE — According to scientists with NASA and NOAA, 2023 was the planet’s warmest on record, based on average surface temperature. The previous record-holder was 2016, but scientists say this year is part of a global trend, that’s seen rising temperatures since the 1960s.

Given that 2023 started with a La Niña weather pattern, scientists expected the year to be relatively cooler, but as the planet entered an El Niño pattern in the spring, global temperatures got warmer and warmer compared to what we’d expect for the season. The year 2023 ended about 2.12 F above baseline temperatures. Regions in the arctic are warming faster than the rest of the planet.

Liz Hoy, an earth scientist with NASA Goddard, said this warming pattern also coincides with a more active storm season. The U.S. saw a record number of billion-dollar weather disasters in 2023.

“We’re going to see there could be more moisture in the atmosphere which has the potential for more water in storm systems or more extreme storm systems,” she said. ”There’s just more energy in that system.”

NASA aims to study that phenomenon in the atmosphere with its PACE mission is set to launch next month. The satellite will collect data on how the ocean and air exchange carbon dioxide and how that impacts the aquatic ecosystem and the climate as a whole.

Now as we enter 2024, scientists say the current El Niño pattern is consistent with the warmer, wetter winter we’re seeing in the southeast and the active weather season we’re seeing across the country so far.

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Michelle Alfini

Michelle Alfini, wsoctv.com

Michelle is a climate reporter for Channel 9.