8th Dec 2023

July hasn’t been hotter in 120,000 years

  • July's high temperatures have seen heatwaves and wildfires across the world (Photo: Axel Drainville)
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July 2023 will become the warmest month ever recorded, with global temperatures approximately 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels, according to an analysis from the University of Leipzig published on Thursday (27 July).

However, experts warned that this trend of record temperatures is likely to repeat in the coming months and years.

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  • Global daily temperatures (°C) from January 1940 to July 2023 (Photo: C3S/ECMWF)

Karsten Haustein, the climate scientist who conducted the analysis, pointed out the need to look back approximately 120,000 years to find conditions similarly warm.

The analysis is based on preliminary data, including projected temperatures until the end of the month.

And it has also been confirmed by the EU climate monitoring agency Copernicus, which on Thursday also said that it is "extremely likely" that July 2023 will be the hottest July ever and also the hottest month on record.

Heatwaves in regions of North America, Asia and Europe, as well as wildfires in countries like Canada and Greece, have led to this month's breaking-record temperatures, according to Copernicus.

Simultaneously, July's record warmth has been declared at just the same time that the phenomenon of El Niño is unfolding. This cycle of warming in the Pacific is likely to contribute to triggering more record temperatures until at least early 2024, said Haustein.

These "dramatic" climatic changes, she said, can result in "unprecedented" marine and continental heatwaves — which increase the risk of reaching extreme temperatures across the globe.

According to World Meteorological Organization's (WMO) forecast, it is highly likely that one of the upcoming five years will become the warmest on record.

In addition, there is a significant likelihood (66 percent) that global temperatures will temporarily surpass 1.5 degrees above the pre-industrial levels during at least one of those five years.

Although this does not imply that the world will exceed the limit set by the 2015 Paris Agreement, which refers to long-term warming over an extended period, it serves as a strong reminder of the imperative for rapid climate action.

'Climate action is a must'

Experts agree that the main reason for such record temperatures remains the release of greenhouse gases related to human activities.

"The extreme weather which has affected many millions of people in July is, unfortunately, the harsh reality of climate change and a foretaste of the future," said Petteri Taalas, WMO secretary-general.

"The need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is more urgent than ever before. Climate action is not a luxury but a must," he warned.

The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports have consistently warned that fossil-fuel consumption and its associated emissions remain the primary driver of global warming.

The impact of efficiency measures on reducing CO2 emissions is overshadowed by the increasing emissions in multiple sectors, according to the 2023 IPCC report.

In 2019, around 79 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions came from energy, industry, transport and buildings, and 22 precent from agriculture, forestry and other land use.

Extreme weather events in July include the hottest night temperature ever recorded in Europe (with more than 37 degrees recorded in Palermo, Sicily), a record low in Antarctic sea ice, and the hottest-ever temperatures recorded in the Mediterranean Sea.

The consequences of record-breaking temperatures are various, including health impacts, agricultural losses leading to food insecurity, and a decline in tourism numbers, especially in regions like the Mediterranean, where some of the highest temperatures are recorded.

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