July was the hottest month in recorded history, the European meteorological authority Copernicus reported on Tuesday. This year has been the third-hottest on record thus far, the weather experts said, suggesting 2023 has a chance of beating 2016 as the hottest year in recorded history.
“These records have dire consequences for both people and the planet exposed to ever more frequent and intense extreme events,” Copernicus Deputy Director Samantha Burgess told the Financial Times on Tuesday.
The month’s global average temperature of 16.95 degrees Celsius (62.51 degrees Fahrenheit) was about 0.3 degrees C (0.6 degrees F) warmer than July 2019, the previous record holder according to Copernicus, and 0.7 degrees C (1.3 degrees F) hotter than the average July from 1991 to 2020.
The announcement confirmed predictions made by the EU body and also by the World Meteorological Organization last month that this July’s temperatures would significantly exceed the existing record. The two groups claimed the first three weeks of July constituted the warmest three-week period ever recorded globally, with July 6 being the single hottest day.
Additionally, global average sea surface temperatures hit a record high in July, Copernicus reported, noting that the oceans were half a degree C (0.9 degrees F) hotter than the previous 30 years, while Antarctic sea ice cover was measured at less than any previous July on record, 15% below the average for this time of year.
July’s average temperature was 1.5 degrees C (2.7 degrees F) warmer than the pre-industrial era, a figure climate scientists have seized upon because of the Paris Climate Agreement goal of limiting long-term global warming to 1.5 degrees.
While Copernicus had designated July 2019 as the previous record-holder, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Organization (NOAA) found July 2021’s average combined land and ocean-surface temperature to be the hottest on record, 0.93 degrees Celsius higher than the 20th century average and breaking records set in July 2016, 2019 and 2020. Copernicus’ figures for July outstrip the NOAA’s for 2021, though that organization has not made any announcements as of Tuesday.
Copernicus’ temperature records only go back to 1940, and the NOAA’s only date back to 1850, which limits climate experts’ ability to contextualize modern-day heat waves. That has not stopped some experts, such as Potsdam Institute for Climate Research scientist Stefan Rahmstorf, from telling HuffPost that July was actually “the warmest month on Earth in ten thousand years” or even 120,000 years, citing studies that examine markers like tree rings.