It’s very hot in a lot of places right now. It’s over 100 degrees in cities across China. Millions of people in North Africa and the Middle East are struggling with life-threatening heat. And the heat index pushes 110 degrees or more from Texas to Florida.
The average global air temperature over the past two days appears to be the warmest on record, dating back to 1979, according to data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
On July 4, the global average temperature was estimated at 62.9 degrees Fahrenheit, according to NOAA climate models. That’s about half a degree Fahrenheit higher than the previous daily record set on August 14, 2016. And while an average temperature in the 60s might seem low, the daily global temperature estimate includes the entire planet, including Antarctica.
Zoom out a bit more, and June 2023 may have been the hottest month of june on a longer record, dating back to the late 1800s, according to preliminary global data from NOAA and a major European climate model. June 2023 was more than 2.5 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than average global temperatures in June in the late 1800s.
The reason for the scorching temperatures is twofold: human-caused climate change and the cyclic weather pattern known as El Niño. El Niño is a natural phenomenon that started in June and leads to very warm waters in the Pacific. This is having cascading effects around the world, causing more severe weather in many places and higher average temperatures worldwide.
This is why heat records tend to drop during El Niño, including when the last daily record for global average temperature was set in 2016. Climate change, caused by the burning of fossil fuels by humans and the release of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. exacerbates the effects of the natural climate regime.
While the broken records are powerful reminders of the dramatic changes humans are making to Earth’s atmosphere, the long-term trend is what really matters for the health and well-being of people around the world. The effects of the hottest day, week or month pale in comparison to the implications of decades of constant warming, which is wreaking havoc on the entire planet.
This trend is clear. The past 8 years have been the hottest on record. One of the next five years will almost certainly be the hottest on record, and the period from 2023 to 2027 will be the hottest on record, according to forecasters from the World Meteorological Organization and Britain’s Met Office.
And hot weather is deadly, whether it breaks a record or not. Extremely high temperatures prevent safe working or exercising outdoors, exacerbate heart and lung disease, and worsen air pollution. The heat is particularly dangerous for people who work outdoors as well as for babies and the elderly. And when the heat combines with the humidity, it’s even more deadly.