July 2023: The Hottest Month On Earth Record – OpEd


July 2023 stood out as one of the hottest months globally, with elevated temperatures triggering extreme weather events like heat waves, heavy rainfall, droughts, and rampant wildfires. These temperatures have been related to heat waves in large parts of North America, Asia and Europe, which along with wildfires in countries including Canada and Greece, have had major impacts on people’s health, the environment and economies.

Earth just roasted under its hottest July on record. NASA clocks July 2023 as hotter than any other month in the global temperature record ever since 1880. The average global surface temperature in July was 2.02 degrees F (1.12 degrees C) above average. Because July is climatologically the hottest month of the year for the Earth as a whole, that makes July 2023 Earth’s warmest month on record since records have been kept and likely the hottest in 120,000 years, based on evidence of past temperatures found in ancient sediments and layers of ice, as well as on other paleoclimate records.

July 2023 was the first time an average July temperature exceeded 1.8 degrees F (1.0 degree C) above the long-term average. Also of note, last month was 0.36 of a degree F (0.20 of a degree C) warmer than the previous July record from 2021. July 2023 marked the 47th-consecutive July and the 533rd-consecutive month with temperatures above the 20th-century average.

El Niño, which developed in May, also boosts global temperatures—and this climate pattern’s combination with climate change makes it highly likely that more months this year will set records, according to Karsten Haustein, a Leipzig University climate scientist. The year as a whole will certainly rank among the hottest on record. Through June, it was the third warmest year to date (behind 2016, which featured a monster El Niño, and 2020), according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The science is clear this isn’t normal. Alarming warming around the world is driven primarily by human-caused greenhouse gas emissions. And that rise in average temperatures is fuelling dangerous extreme heat that people are experiencing here at home and worldwide. The extreme weather which has affected many millions of people in July is unfortunately the harsh reality of climate change and a foretaste of the future,” according to WMO’s secretary-general Petteri Taalas. The need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is more urgent than ever before. Climate action is not a luxury but a must.

Global average sea surface temperatures continued to rise, after a long period of unusually high temperatures since April 2023, reaching record high levels in July. For the month as a whole, global average sea surface temperatures were 0.51°C above the 1991-2020 average. The record ocean heat is being reported at the start of an El Niño event that began developing in May 2023 which is expected to lead to higher temperatures, more marine heat waves and coral bleaching. Phenomena such as El Niño or La Niña, which warm or cool the tropical Pacific Ocean, can contribute a small amount of year-to-year variability in global temperatures. But these contributions are not typically felt when El Niño starts developing in Northern Hemisphere summer. NASA expects to see the biggest impacts of El Niño in February, March, and April 2024.

July was estimated to have been around 1.5°C warmer than the pre-industrial average for 1850-1900, according to the Copernicus Climate Change Service, operated by the European Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasting. It said July was 0.33°C warmer than the previous warmest month, July 2019.The global mean surface air temperature averaged for the month of July 2023 was 16.95 degrees Celsius. This is well above the 16.63 degrees recorded for month of July 2019, which is currently the warmest July and warmest month on record.

In a stark reminder of the escalating climate crisis, July 2023 has been confirmed as the hottest month ever recorded, according to the European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service. This follows June’s record-breaking heat, marking an alarming trend in global temperature increases. 2023 is currently the third warmest year on record, with temperatures in July reaching 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. “We just witnessed global air temperatures and global ocean surface temperatures set new all-time records in July,” Apparently there is urgent need for ambitious efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the primary driver behind these record-breaking temperatures.

Using climate fingerprinting methods to analyse temperatures across the globe in real-time, comparing recorded temperatures to a simulated world without climate change, Climate Central-a science non-profit, revealed that human-induced global warming made July unbearably hot for four out of every five people on Earth. The research found that over 2 billion individuals experienced climate change-boosted warmth daily throughout the month.

We just witnessed global air temperatures and global ocean surface temperatures set new all-time records in July. These records have dire consequences for both people and the planet exposed to ever more frequent and intense extreme events.

Climate change is also having an adverse effect on the people of India and its economy. In India rainfall distribution patterns in 2023 (up to end of July) have been changed drastically. Traditionally high rainfall region of East and North East as well as Kerala received -24% and -32% deficit rainfall. The cold desert of Kargil received +512%, Ladakh +304%, hot deserts of Saurashtra and Katchh +166% and West Rajasthan hot desert +134% excess rainfall over the long period average. It is very classical and drastic change in rainfall, cloud bursts and devastations due to global warming.

A Stanford University study (2019) showed that India’s economy is 31 percent smaller than it would have been in the absence of global warming. At the forefront of these risks are farmers, in north Indian states of Haryana and Punjab, where crop yields will decline by 15 to 17 percent for every 2 degrees centigrade increase in temperature. crop lodging in 34.6% of Punjab and 29.5% of Haryana was estimated by the competent agencies. However, excessive rainfall reduced the temperature by 4-6 °C, wheat maturity, harvesting and arrival into the market was delayed by about 10 days. Overall higher productivity of wheat, arrival into the market and procurement over the previous year was an evidence of the climate change implications. However, there were some losses in few micro localities damaged by the hail storms.

The results were startling, underscoring the urgent need for global action to mitigate the impacts of climate change. As the world continues to grapple with the escalating climate crisis, these record-breaking temperatures serve as a stark reminder of the urgent need for decisive action. With each passing month, the impacts of climate change become increasingly severe, underscoring the urgent need for global cooperation and action to mitigate this existential threat.

The ultimate and permanent solution demands replacement of fossil fuels with safe, green and renewable solid (pellets), gaseous (Hydrogen & CNG) and liquid (ethanol) fuels, solar, wind and Hydropower. Of course improving efficiency in the energy sector also reduces global warming and new technologies should be invested.

Dr. Gursharan Singh Kainth

Dr. Gursharan Singh Kainth is Founder–Director of Guru Arjan Dev Institute of Development Studies

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