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Expand chart
Data: NOAA; Chart: Will Chase/Axios

June was the Earth's fifth-warmest such month on record, according to new data released Tuesday by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

The big picture: Land surface temperatures were the hottest they've been during the month, dating back 142 years of instrument record-keeping, but ocean temperatures didn't rank quite so highly.

Why it matters: Monthly temperature reports may not mean much over the long term, but they add up over time to the trends climate scientists pay the closest attention to as the climate continues to warm due mainly to the burning of fossil fuels.

The intrigue: Despite the cooling influence of a La Niña event in the tropical Pacific Ocean during parts of 2020 and the start of 2021, this year is still on course to be among the top six or seven warmest on record.

  • It's one indication that the natural brakes the climate system possesses, such as La Niña events, no longer work as well as they used to, given the increased influence of ever-higher levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

What we're watching: Whether a "double-dip" La Niña develops later this year, as some computer models project, may affect whether temperatures rebound more sharply late this year and early in 2022.

Go deeper

Heat wave roasts the West as wildfires explode in size

Satellite image showing smoke plumes from wildfires erupting in California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho and other states, as well as southern British Columbia on Sunday, June 11. Photo: NOAA/CIRA

The latest in a series of severe heat waves to affect the West continues Monday, although conditions are not expected to be quite as extreme as they were during the weekend.

The big picture: The heat, combined with a deepening drought and lightning strikes, has set more than 1 million acres of land in California, Oregon, Washington, and Canada ablaze, with smoke obscuring the skies thousands of miles away.

Study reveals extraordinary scope of urban heat disparities

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Low-income residents and communities of color in the U.S. face much higher and more dangerous urban heat extremes than people living in richer and whiter city neighborhoods, new peer-reviewed research shows.

Driving the news: Areas with higher rates of poverty can see summer land surface temperatures up to a whopping 4°C, or 7°F, higher than the richest areas, the paper in Earth's Future finds.

Sprawling wildfires scorch Western U.S. amid severe heat wave

A helicopter dropping water on the Sugar Fire near Doyle, Calif., on July 12. Photo: Neal Waters/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

More than 14,200 wildland firefighters have responded to 67 major fires primarily across the Western United States that have burned approximately 918,000 acres, the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) announced Tuesday.

Why it matters: The West is in the midst of a climate change-fueled megadrought and its third heatwave of the summer, both of which are contributing to substantial and mostly uncontained fires that have forced thousands of people to evacuate and claimed an undetermined number of homes, according to AP.