Summer 2023 breaks global heat record

September 6, 2023

Earth’s northern hemisphere baked under the hottest summer on record this year, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) reported Wednesday. 

Heat records were topped off last month with the recording of the hottest August on record—the second hottest month ever following this July, according to the WMO and the European climate service Copernicus.

Though climate scientists are more concerned about rising temperature trends over decades, this past month was about 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit (1.5 degrees Celsius) hotter than pre-industrial averages.

The planet’s oceans, meanwhile, have reached a hottest-ever average temperature of 69.8 degrees Fahrenheit or 21 degrees Celsius. 

September, meanwhile, is already flirting with record temperatures in the Eastern and Midwestern United States. On Tuesday, more than 60 million Americans were under heat alerts from Texas to Vermont.

“Simply put, the next several days will be dangerously hot,” warned the National Weather Service. 

Overall for the entire year so far, 2023 is averaging second-hottest ever, after 2016, according to Copernicus. 

A World Weather Attribution initiative has noted that the simultaneous extreme heat waves that have raged across the U.S. and Europe this summer would be “virtually impossible” if not for climate change. While the WWA’s scientists have conceded that  El Niño—a weakening of trade winds that causes northern U.S. and Canada to be dryer and warmer than usual—has been a factor this year, they state that it’s the burning of fossil fuels that has been the main driver of the rising temperatures.

Heat is the deadliest natural disaster known to humans, killing more every year than other extreme weather events, including flooding, tornadoes, hurricanes or lightning. According to the EPA, more than 11,000 Americans have died from heat-related causes since 1979.

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