July enters history books as hottest month on record

July was officially the hottest month ever recorded, surpassing the previous record set in 2019 by 0.3C, according to the European earth observation agency.

Scientists at the agency said the average global temperature in July was about 1.5C warmer than that of the pre-industrial period of 1850 to 1900, before human-induced climate change began to take effect.

The assessment comes after researchers at the Copernicus Climate Change Service and the World Meteorological Organization had predicted the month would exceed the highest recorded temperatures by a considerable extent.

“These records have dire consequences for both people and the planet exposed to ever more frequent and intense extreme events,” said Samantha Burgess, deputy director of Copernicus.

The year of 2023 so far has been the third-warmest ever, and may go on to surpass 2016 as the hottest on record, Copernicus said. 

Burgess added that July’s temperatures demonstrated the “urgency for ambitious efforts to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions, which are the main driver behind these records”.

A temporary rise of 1.5C in the average global temperature is distinct from the Paris Agreement goal of limiting long-term global warming to 1.5C by 2100. On that long-term basis, temperatures have risen at least 1.1C, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has said.

But the IPCC this year reported that the risks of warming were greater than was thought and the world could reach the 1.5C threshold in the “near term”. At that point, scientists expect irreversible changes to the planet to take hold.

In its report released on Tuesday, Copernicus observed that global average sea surface temperatures also hit record highs in July, and the Antarctic sea ice extent reached its lowest ever level for the month. 

Simultaneous heatwaves and record flooding affected large parts of the US, Europe and Asia in July, and scientists have warned that such weather extremes will become more frequent and intense with every fraction of a degree of warming. 

The developing El Niño weather phenomenon, which is associated with the warming of the surface of the pacific ocean, is also expected to push up temperatures later this year and next.

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