July 2023: The world has never been hotter

Sun at the beach
The international community had already, in fact, agreed to keep global warming under 1.5 degrees. This goal appears to becoming more unrealistic.(Source: IMAGO / ZUMA Wire)

Never before, since being recorded, has the average temperature been as high in a month as in July 2023, according to data from the EU Copernicus Climate Change Service. Copernicus Deputy Director, Samantha Burgess, said on Tuesday that it “has not been this warm for the last 120,000 years.” While the service only has data since 1940, climate researchers can reconstruct historical climate patterns through tree rings, air bubbles in glaciers and corals, among others.

The global average temperature in July was 16.95 degrees Celsius which was 0.33 degrees higher than in the previously warmest month of July 2019, as reported on Tuesday by Copernicus. The ocean temperature was also higher than ever before. “These records have dire consequences for both people and the planet exposed to ever more frequent and intense extreme events,” Burgess warned. According to the data, 6 July 2023 was the hottest day yet with a global average temperature of 17.08 degrees.

The temperature on land in July was 0.72 degrees above the average from 1991 to 2020, according to the Copernicus data. The ocean temperature at about ten meters beneath the surface was 0.51 degrees higher. In the North Atlantic, there was even a measured increase of 1.05 degrees. Copernicus measured a record-high temperature on the surface of the Mediterranean – a median temperature of 28.71 degrees Celsius.

Record-breaking year expected

Copernicus data are based on computer-generated analyses that incorporate measurements from satellites, ships, aeroplanes and weather stations all over the world.

The US climate authorities, NOAA, will publish their data for July in the middle of August. Meanwhile, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) in Genf does not exclude 2023 as a whole from becoming hotter than the previously hottest year of 2016. Back then, the average temperature was 1.3 degrees above the pre-industrial level (1850-1900). Since then, global warming has moving forward due to man-made climate change. It has increased severely since the 1980’s.

As stated by experts at the German Meteorological Service (DWD), July was definitely not a record-breaking month specifically in Germany. Although it was too warm compared with many other years, no records were broken overall.

The 1.5 degree mark occasionally surpassed

On a global level, July 2023 is the first recorded month with an average temperature of about 1.5 degrees above the pre-industrial level as Copernicus reported. At the Paris agreement, the international community agreed to limit increases in global warming to 1.5 degrees if possible. This measurement concerned the annual average temperature over longer period of time rather than over a month. Based on calculations made through climate research, individual years are likely to be above this amount in a few years.

According to experts, by far not nearly enough has been done on a global scale to drastically limit the rise in temperature. Based on UN information, it’s likely that previous efforts would have led to a temperature increase of about 2.8 degrees. The WMO barely views the 1.5 degree goal as being within reach.

In Europe, temperatures are rising almost twice as fast as the global average: Based on details provided by Copernicus, on average it was 2.2 degrees hotter in Europe in the past five years than in the pre-industrial era. The global average was 1.2 degrees.

Change with consequences

The effects of the climate crisis have been felt all over the world for a long time and are becoming more pronounced, even with slight increases in temperature. Among other things, the effects include more frequent and pronounced heat waves, droughts, forest fires, thunderstorms and floods. In particular, less wealthy countries and their population suffer greatly from these effects.

Additionally, glaciers are melting all over the world and more water is evaporating, making drinking water scarce. The polar ice caps are also melting. This is increasing sea levels, which threatens coastal regions. Biodiversity is decreasing because some animals and plants are not able to adapt quickly enough.

Even humans are threatened in many aspects – by high temperatures, for example. In Europe alone, the heat wave is responsible for tens of thousands of deaths based on calculations.

The WMO expects global record-breaking temperatures in the coming years. This is because for the first time since many years, there are El Niño conditions in the tropical Pacific. This natural weather phenomenon will additionally drive up temperatures, which are already increasing steadily as a result of the climate crisis, as Secretary General Petteri Taalas of the WMO, warned in the beginning of July. Even Mojib Latif from the GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research in Kiel expects a record-breaking year for global temperatures “maybe already in 2023” – “but certainly in 2024.” (dpa / hcz)