Record-breaking heat waves and disastrous wildfires have put millions of lives across the globe in jeopardy this summer, and the data shows that extreme heat events were no fluke – July 2023 was the hottest month on record, as confirmed by NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies.
This year's record broke the previous record by an alarming .43 degrees Fahrenheit, topping record-breaking temperatures of the past 5 years. The global temperature record, which goes as far back as 1880, shows that this July's average temperature was 2.1 degrees Fahrenheit hotter than average July temperatures between 1951 and 1980.
Hottest July in 174 years
Studies show that these temperature records are virtually impossible without climate change. And the Copernicus Climate Change Service, the NOAA, and NASA all agree that greenhouse gas emissions from humans are the primary cause.
"The science is clear this isn’t normal," GISS director Gavin Schmidt said in a statement. "Alarming warming around the world is driven primarily by human-caused greenhouse gas emissions. And that rise in average temperatures is fueling dangerous extreme heat that people are experiencing here at home and worldwide."
The majority of global warming is occurring in the ocean, according to NASA. This year, the warming phase of the Pacific Ocean known as "El Niño" has been especially intense, and NASA expects to see the biggest impacts of it starting in February of 2024.
Globally, the World Meteorological Association reported that the average sea temperature in July was 0.51°C above the 1991 - 2020 average. The WMA also reported that sea ice coverage was the lowest it has ever been this July, about 470,000 square miles less than the previous record.
"As we continue to see continued increases in concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, this long-term warming will continue and temperature records will continue to be broken," said WMO Director of Climate Services Chris Hewitt.
This year, people have already experienced the consequences of climate change firsthand, putting humanity past the due date of preventing it. NASA Administrator Bill Nelson stressed the urgency of addressing the crisis, starting with the Biden Administration's Climate Agenda: "The science is clear. We must act now to protect our communities and planet; it’s the only one we have."