Aug 14, 2021 - Energy & Environment

Extreme weather defined Earth's hottest month

July global surface temperature anomalies
Reproduced from NOAA; Chart: Connor Rothschild/Axios

July was the hottest month on record worldwide, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Why it matters: When it comes to establishing new climate milestones, the Earth is on a roll, thanks in large part to the burning of fossil fuels for energy, as well as deforestation.

  • The monthly temperature record news dropped in the same week as the dire climate report from the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
  • That report makes clear that global warming can no longer be viewed as a problem simply for future generations — its effects are already here.
  • The report was the climate science equivalent of the horror movie trope: "The phone call is coming from inside the house."

Details: The Northern Hemisphere land-surface temperature was the highest ever recorded for July, at an unprecedented 2.77°F (1.54°C) above average, NOAA found.

  • The month was the hottest month on record for Asia and second-hottest for Europe.

During July:

  • California saw a spate of wildfires worsen, as did Oregon, Montana and other Western states. One of the fires that began in July, known as the Dixie Fire, is now California's second-largest blaze on record.
  • Brutal heat waves hit Europe and Asia, and vast stretches of Siberia went up in flames, choking population centers with smoke and haze.
  • Turkey set record highs, which helped set the stage for wildfires that broke out in August. Parts of Japan broke temperature records, and Northern Ireland broke its all-time heat record two days in a row.

Yes, but: Climate scientists don't pay very close attention to individual calendar months, but rather to long-term, 30-year-plus trends. But in both cases, the trend lines are clear: The world is getting warmer, quickly, as greenhouse gas concentrations in the air climb.

  • It is nearly certain that 2021 will rank among the top 10 warmest years on record, most likely at No. 6 or 7 on NOAA's list. That is despite the presence of a La Niña event in the tropical Pacific Ocean that helped keep global average temperatures lower for a time.

What they're saying: “This new record adds to the disturbing and disruptive path that climate change has set for the globe,” said NOAA administrator Rick Spinrad.

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