Updated Aug 13, 2021 - Energy & Environment

July breaks record as world's hottest month

Man standing in front of a burning forest.
Firefighter in the Sakha Republic of Russia faces one of many massive wildfires burning in the region this summer. (Ivan Nikiforov/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said Friday that July was the world's hottest month ever recorded, calling it an "unenviable distinction."

What they're saying: "In this case, first place is the worst place to be," NOAA administrator Rick Spinrad said in a statement. "This new record adds to the disturbing and disruptive path that climate change has set for the globe."

The big picture: July featured an extraordinary series of climate change-related disasters, from multiple heat domes that shattered temperature records in North America, Europe and Asia, to devastating wildfires in Siberia, the Mediterranean, and the American West.

Last week, the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued the most comprehensive climate science analysis since 2013, finding that global warming is playing a detectible, growing role in extreme weather and climate events, and noting the world is rapidly nearing the Paris Agreement's temperature target of holding warming to 1.5°C (2.7°F) above preindustrial levels by 2100.

Context: In the IPCC report, scientists analyzed global temperatures starting back to 1850 and used computer models to observe how temperatures would change solely based on natural variability, which they then compared with moderns that incorporate human influences.

  • Overall, the data proved, once again, that climate change is man-made.

By the numbers: The combined land and ocean-surface temperature around the world was 1.67°F above the 20th century average. The NOAA said it was the hottest month since instrument record-keeping began in 1880, 142 years ago.

  • The previous record was set in July 2016, which was then tied in 2019 and 2020, per NOAA.
  • The global land-surface temperature was the highest-ever recorded for July, at an unprecedented 2.77 degrees F (1.54 degrees C) above average, surpassing the previous record set in 2012, per NOAA.
  • Asia saw its hottest July on record, beating the earlier record set in 2010, a year that featured a heat wave that killed tens of thousands. Europe had its second-hottest July — tying with 2010 and trailing behind July 2018.

Go deeper:

Go deeper