Cruel summer: July likely hottest month on record 

July 2023 is all but certain to be declared the world’s hottest on record. 

That bold statement was issued by the World Meteorological Organization which analysed preliminary data from the European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service.  

It comes amid record-breaking localised temperatures across parts of Europe, Asia and North America, including regions battling severe heatwaves and wildfires.  

“Short of a mini-Ice Age over the next days, July 2023 will shatter records across the board,” United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres said. 

“According to the data released today, July has already seen the hottest three-week period ever recorded; the three hottest days on record; and the highest-ever ocean temperatures for this time of year. 

“For vast parts of North America, Asia, Africa and Europe – it is a cruel summer. For the entire planet, it is a disaster. And for scientists, it is unequivocal – humans are to blame. 

“All this is entirely consistent with predictions and repeated warnings. The only surprise is the speed of the change.” 

Beyond July likely setting a new benchmark for monthly temperature, the hottest day ever recorded was recorded on July 6, breaking the previous mark set in August 2016 – during a major El Nino event.  

Among other records to topple:  

  • The top 21 hottest days were recorded in July 2023, ranging from 16.83°C-17.08°C. The top 30 temperatures on record all occur within the past eight years. 
  • The world’s average temperature briefly surpassed 1.5°C above pre-industrial temperatures – the preferred benchmark of the Paris Climate Agreement.  
  • Global sea surface temperatures were at record highs for this time of year, and was just 0.01°C short of matching the hottest average recorded in March 2016 (20.95°C).  
  • China set a new national temperature record.  

“Given the simultaneous heatwaves across large areas of the Northern Hemisphere, it’s no surprise that July is almost guaranteed to be the planet’s hottest month on record,” says Dr Andrew King, a senior lecturer in climate science at the University of Melbourne.  

“We know that this global heat record would have been virtually impossible without the effect of humanity’s greenhouse gas emissions.” 

While Australia is yet to declare an El Niño event is underway, experts expect conditions to strengthen towards the end of the year.  

Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology remains on ‘Alert’ status and has previously stated that while the Northern Hemisphere’s summer conditions have been unprecedented, it may not translate to a similar hot period for Pacific nations below the equator.  

The Bureau’s latest climate outlook does forecast below-average rainfall in southern Australia, and warmer-than-usual conditions for most of the country.  

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