July has officially entered the record books as the hottest month ever documented on Earth, according to the European Union’s climate observatory.
Marked by a relentless surge of heatwaves and wildfires spanning the globe, the previous month surpassed all expectations, registering a temperature increase of 0.33 degrees Celsius above the previous record set in July 2019, with an average temperature of 16.63 degrees Celsius (32 Fahrenheit).
Staggering figures from the EU’s climate observatory Copernicus reveal that July 2023 was a scorching 0.72 degrees Celsius warmer than the average for the period from 1991 to 2020.
The dire effects of the 1.2 degrees Celsius rise in global temperatures since the late 1800s, largely attributed to fossil fuel emissions, are evident in the escalating frequency and intensity of heatwaves, alongside other extreme weather phenomena such as storms and floods.
Regions across the Northern Hemisphere, including southern Europe, experienced heatwaves of unprecedented scale. South American countries and areas surrounding much of Antarctica reported well-above-average temperatures.
Global mean temperatures for 2023 ranked as the third highest on record, at 0.43 degrees Celsius compared to the average from 1991 to 2020. This figure narrows the gap with the previous highest records of 0.49 degrees Celsius in 2016 and 0.48 degrees Celsius in 2020. This narrowing gap is expected due to the relatively cooler last months of 2016 and the projected warmth for the remainder of 2023 as the current El Niño event develops.
As experts had cautioned, July’s extreme heatwave has set an alarming new milestone. The world’s oceans, too, broke temperature records, raising concerns about far-reaching impacts on marine life, climate patterns, and coastal communities.
On July 30, the surface temperature of the oceans surged to 20.96 degrees Celsius (69.7 degrees Fahrenheit), surpassing the previous record of 20.95 degrees Celsius set in March 2016. This unsettling trend underscores the urgency to address global greenhouse gas emissions, a point strongly emphasized by Samantha Burgess, Deputy Director of the EU’s Copernicus Climate Change Service.
Against the backdrop of these unprecedented climatic shifts, forest fires wreaked havoc in Greece and Canada, leaving vast areas charred. In addition, severe heatwaves scorched parts of southern Europe, North Africa, the southern United States, and pockets of China.
The record-breaking precipitation in Beijing, China, over the past few days highlighted the ongoing unpredictability of weather patterns, with the heaviest rains in 140 years causing catastrophic flooding.
Carlo Buontempo, Director of Copernicus, drew attention to the exceptional nature of these temperatures, suggesting that proxy data from sources like tree rings and ice cores might indicate an unprecedented period of warming over the last few thousand years, or even potentially extending back hundreds of millennia.
The United Nations Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, issued a fervent appeal, acknowledging the stark reality of climate change and stressing the pressing need for swift action to curb emissions and mitigate the consequences.
“The era of global warming has ended; the era of global boiling has arrived,” Guterres warned, underscoring the urgent necessity of combating this escalating crisis.