The planet experienced its warmest July on record in 2023, breaking the previous record by an alarming margin, according to NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). This significant data reveals that last month’s temperatures exceeded the average for July by more than one-third of a degree Fahrenheit. While this seeming fraction may appear insignificant, it represents a remarkable jump in global records. Furthermore, the data strongly suggests that July 2023 may have been the warmest month ever recorded since 1850.
July 2023’s record-breaking warmth follows June, which was also the hottest June on record. These back-to-back global temperature spikes add to the growing concerns regarding climate extremes in recent months, including unprecedented warmth in the world’s oceans. Sarah Kapnick, NOAA’s chief scientist, stressed that last month’s temperatures were unprecedented, stating, “Last month was way, way warmer than anything we’ve ever seen.” Typically, July is the warmest month globally, so it is highly likely that July 2023 was hotter than any month in any year since at least 1850.
NASA and NOAA’s joint findings reveal that last month’s average global surface temperature was 2.02 degrees Fahrenheit above the 20th-century average. It marked the first time an average July temperature surpassed 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit or 1 degree Celsius above the long-term average. In addition, July 2023 was the fourth consecutive month with record-high global ocean surface temperatures. NOAA determined that it had the highest monthly sea surface temperature anomaly, measuring 1.78 degrees Fahrenheit above the long-term average.
According to Carlos Del Castillo, chief of the Ocean Ecology Laboratory at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, the past decade has been the warmest for the world’s oceans since the 1880s. This ongoing trend of ocean warming carries profound consequences. As water heats, it expands, contributing to sea-level rise when combined with the melting of ice over land. Rising sea levels can lead to coastal flooding and erosion, disrupting ecosystems and impacting marine species. Therefore, changes in ocean temperatures must be regarded with great concern.
While the heightened global temperatures primarily result from long-term human-caused global warming, a natural climate pattern called El Niño exacerbated the July records. El Niño is characterized by warm ocean surface temperatures in parts of the Pacific Ocean, which tend to increase global temperatures and influence weather conditions worldwide. NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center forecasts a greater than 95% chance of El Niño continuing through the winter in the Northern Hemisphere. Scientists anticipate that the most significant impacts of El Niño will likely occur next year, further exacerbating global temperature levels.
The record-breaking July temperatures do not exist in isolation but follow an alarming overall warming trend that has persisted for several decades. July 2023 marked the 47th consecutive July with temperatures exceeding the 20th-century average and the 533rd consecutive month overall. Sarah Kapnick emphasizes that these warm months are part of a long-term trend, spanning multiple decades. Therefore, the implications of rapid climate change, compounded by temporary events like El Niño, demand serious consideration.
NOAA’s chief scientist stresses the urgency of addressing the consequences of climate change, emphasizing that this year provides a snapshot of the future. Rising temperatures and extreme weather events will increasingly impact society and critical infrastructure in the coming decade. If greenhouse gas emissions continue to warm the planet, the years ahead will be comparatively cooler only by the middle of the century. This sobering reality highlights the necessity for proactive measures to mitigate climate change and build resilience in the face of a changing climate.
July 2023’s record-breaking temperatures serve as a stark reminder of the escalating global warming crisis. The alarming leap in temperatures, coupled with a series of extreme climate events, demands urgent action. The data reflects a broader warming trend that requires immediate attention to limit the detrimental impacts on ecosystems, wildlife, and human societies. It is imperative that individuals, communities, and governments work together to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and safeguard the planet for future generations.