The world saw its two hottest days ever recorded one after the other on Monday and Tuesday as climate change and the El Nino weather pattern looked likely to drive another scorching Northern Hemisphere summer.
Data from the United States National Centers for Environmental Prediction showed that the planet’s average temperature was 17.01C (62.62F) on Monday, up from the previous record of 16.92C (62.46F), which was set in August 2016. That new record stood just on day. It was shattered on Tuesday when the average temperature rose to 17.18C (62.92F).
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These temperatures might not appear menacing in themselves, but they represent the mean for the entire planet, half of which — the Southern Hemisphere — is in peak winter.
Separately, the European Union’s climate monitoring service, Copernicus, also known as C3S, on Thursday announced another temperature record in a year that has already seen a drought in Spain and fierce heatwaves in China and the US.
“The month was the warmest June globally at just over 0.5 degrees Celsius [0.9F] above the 1991-2020 average, exceeding June 2019 – the previous record – by a substantial margin,” the EU monitor said in a statement.
Scientists said the heat records reflect the impact of global warming, driven by greenhouse gases released from human activity, mainly the burning of fossil fuels that continue emitting roughly 40 billion tonnes of planet-warming carbon dioxide into the atmosphere every year.
C3S scientist Julien Nicolas told the Agence France-Presse news agency that the June record was driven largely by “very warm ocean surface temperatures” in the Pacific and Atlantic due to El Nino, a periodic warming phenomenon.
Copernicus noted that surface sea temperatures were higher globally than any previous June on record with “extreme marine heatwaves” around Ireland, Britain and the Baltic while parts of Canada, the US, Mexico, Asia and eastern Australia “were significantly warmer than normal”.
Antarctic sea ice reached its lowest extent for June since satellite observations began at 17 percent below average.
The global temperature was 0.53C (0.95F) above the 30-year average of 16.51C (61.72F), Nicolas calculated, saying it is a “kind of anomaly we are not used to”.
The world has warmed an average of nearly 1.2C (2.2F) since the mid-1800s, unleashing extreme weather, including more intense heatwaves and more severe droughts and storms.
Higher than normal temperatures also cause health problems ranging from heatstroke and dehydration to cardiovascular stress in addition to withering crops, melting glaciers and raising the risk of wildfires.
China issued its highest level heat alert for northern parts of the country as Beijing baked in temperatures about 40C (104F).
Britain imposed water use restrictions in parts of southeastern England, and Scotland placed regions on water scarcity alert.
Alan Harris, director of emergency management for Seminole county, Florida, said the county has already surpassed last year for the number of days it has activated its extreme weather plan – something that happens when the heat index hits 108F (42C) or greater.
In the US, local officials said last week that at least 13 people died from an extreme heatwave in Texas and Louisiana.
Heat advisories have been issued for portions of western Oregon, inland far northern California, central New Mexico, Texas, Florida and the coastal Carolinas, according to the National Weather Service’s Weather Prediction Center. Excessive heat warnings are continuing across southern Arizona and California.
Petteri Taalas, secretary general of the United Nations World Meteorological Organization, urged governments “to mobilise preparations to limit the impacts on our health, our ecosystems and our economies”.