July Shattered the Record, and It Wasn't Close

By mid-century, this kind of weather will seem like a cool spell, scientist says
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 14, 2023 7:00 PM CDT
July Shattered the Record, and It Wasn't Close
A tourist drinks water as she and a man sit under an umbrella in front of the 5th century BC Parthenon temple in Athens during a heat wave on July 13.   (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris, File)

Scientists showed the numbers on Monday, confirming that last month was the planet's hottest July ever recorded. That data led to a related conclusion, NBC News reports. "Last month was way, way warmer than anything we've ever seen," said Sarah Kapnick, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's chief scientist, adding that "it's very likely that July 2023 was hotter than any month in any year since at least 1850." The new record is more than one-third of a degree Fahrenheit hotter than the old one, set in 2019. That's a bigger difference than it may seem.

"Most records are set in terms of global temperature by a few hundredths of a degree," said Russell Vose of NOAA's National Centers for Environmental Information, per NPR. But this increase was "bigger than any other jump we've seen," he said. The results were presented by scientists from NOAA and NASA, who also found that the average global surface temperature last month was 2.02 degrees Fahrenheit above the 20th century average. Ocean temperatures hit a record high, with NOAA last month reporting the highest monthly sea surface temperature anomaly, a measure of how much higher or lower temperatures are than the long-term average. It was 1.78 degrees Fahrenheit.

Human-driven global warming is behind the record heat, scientists say, aided by El Niño, a naturally occurring climate pattern that includes high ocean surface temperatures in the Pacific Ocean and can affect weather globally. This year provides a look at how heavy rain and higher temperatures can "stress critical infrastructure over the next decade," Kapnick said, adding a caution. "It's important to remember that these years will be cool by comparison by the middle of the century if we continue to warm our planet as greenhouse gas emissions continue." (More extreme heat stories.)

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