July hottest-ever month on record globally, EU says

The service states that this July was 0.72C warmer than the 1991-2020 average for the month

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Traffic moves on a road in a heat haze during hot weather on the outskirts of Ahmedabad, India, May 12, 2022. — Reuters
Traffic moves on a road in a heat haze during hot weather on the outskirts of Ahmedabad, India, May 12, 2022. — Reuters

European Union's (EU) body observing climate change announced July as the hottest-ever month on Earth Tuesday, weeks after scientists suggested human activities behind global climate deterioration, raising concerns over the future.

It said: "Marked by heatwaves and fires all around the world, the previous month was 0.33 degrees Celsius higher than the record set in July 2019 when the average temperature was 16.63C (32 Fahrenheit)."

"It has not been this warm, combining observational records and paleoclimate records, for the last 120,000 years," said Samantha Burgess, Deputy Director of the EU's Copernicus Climate Change Service.

Burgess added: "The global average temperature for July 2023 is confirmed to be the highest on record for any month — the month is estimated to have been around 1.5 degrees warmer than the average for 1850 to 1900."

The service stated that this July was 0.72C warmer than the 1991-2020 average for the month. 

Global warming and heatwaves

About 1.2 degrees Celsius of global warming since the late 1800s, driven by the burning of fossil fuels, has made heatwaves hotter, longer and more frequent, as well as intensifying other weather extremes like storms and floods.

"Heatwaves were experienced in multiple regions of the Northern Hemisphere, including southern Europe. Well-above average temperatures occurred over several South American countries and around much of Antarctica," according to the observatory.

"The global mean for 2023 is the third highest on record, at 0.43C relative to 1991-2020, compared with 0.49C for 2016 and 0.48C for 2020. The gap between 2023 and 2016 is expected to narrow in the coming months, as the latter months of 2016 were relatively cool... while the remainder of 2023 is expected to be relatively warm as the current El Nino event develops."

Scientists had warned that July, which was the hottest ever, could hit a new record. 

The world's oceans also set a new temperature record, raising concerns about knock-on effects on the planet's climate, marine life and coastal communities.

The temperature of the oceans' surface rose to 20.96 degrees Celsius (69.7 degrees Fahrenheit) on July 30, according to EU climate observatory data.

Urgent action against climate change

"We just witnessed global air temperatures and global ocean surface temperatures set new all-time records in July. These records have dire consequences for both people and the planet exposed to ever more frequent and intense extreme events," said Burgess.

"2023 is currently the third warmest year to date at 0.43C above the recent average, with the average global temperature in July at 1.5C above pre-industrial levels.

"Even if this is only temporary, it shows the urgency for ambitious efforts to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions, which are the main driver behind these records," she said.

Forest fires have ravaged swathes of Greece and burnt 30 million acres (12 million hectares) in Canada, while southern Europe, parts of North Africa, the southern US and pockets of China have been reeling under a punishing heatwave.

Deadly rains that pummelled China's capital Beijing in recent days were the heaviest since records began 140 years ago.

Carlo Buontempo, Director of Copernicus, had earlier said the temperatures in the period had been "remarkable".

Beyond these official records, he said proxy data for the climate going back further — like tree rings or ice cores — suggests the temperatures seen in the period could be "unprecedented in our history in the last few thousand years."

Possibly even longer "on the order of 100,000 years," he said.

No surprise

"This extreme heat shouldn't come as a surprise," said Chris Hewitt, World Meteorological Organization Director of Climate Services.

"[It] really is consistent with what scientists have been predicting for years," said Hewitt, saying the coming "year would unlikely bring any respite."

UN chief Antonio Guterres recently put out an SOS call.

"Climate change is here. It is terrifying. And it is just the beginning," said Guterres, urging immediate and bold action to cut planet-heating emissions.

"The era of global warming has ended; the era of global boiling has arrived."