Summer is always hot. But this summer is different in some profound ways.
Record-breaking temperatures are hitting many cities. Phoenix recorded an unprecedented nineteen consecutive days above 110 degrees. Death Valley hit 128 on Sunday. Records are falling everywhere.
It’s not your imagination: This is not a typical summer.
The extreme temperatures recorded this summer are the result of a combination of natural variations in the climate system and human-caused climate change, with large amounts of El Niño being thrown in.
Here are the things to know:
How do we know climate change is driving this heat? Can’t it just be a hot summer?
Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at the University of California, Los Angeles, says natural variability persists.
“But we are starting to see signs of long-term anthropogenic warming outweigh that volatility. At this point, there are no unprecedented extreme temperature events on Earth that are not exacerbated by climate change.”
The good news: He doesn’t believe Earth has reached some kind of climate tipping point and is hopeless.
This does not appear to be the sudden, sustained acceleration of long-term climate trends that scientists have noted for decades.
“I know a lot of people are worried right now,” he said.
“This year we are moving forward one step at a time due to human-caused climate change,” said Swain. “The warmer we get, the easier it is to reach previously unimaginable heat levels.”
It really is that thing hot:
Here are a few global signs that the heat the United States is experiencing this summer is something much more important than just a heatwave.
- Hottest June ever in NOAA climate records: Earth’s average global temperature in June is 1.89 degrees above average, making it The hottest June on a 174-year global climate record. It also marked the 47th consecutive June and the 532th consecutive month of above-average temperatures for the 20th century, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
- The past seven years have been Earth’s hottest year: The years from 2015 to 2021 are the hottest Earth years on record “with a clear margin”, according to the study of Copernicus climate change service, a group affiliated with the European Union. So far, 2021 is the fifth hottest year on record on the planet. The two hottest years, according to the Copernicus group, were 2020 and 2016.
- 2023 could be the hottest year on record: “It’s actually almost certain that this will be the hottest year globally,” says Michael Mann, a climate scientist and professor at the University of Pennsylvania, told USA TODAY. The current record for the hottest year is 58.69 degrees over land and global oceans, set in 2016, during the last El Niño. Last year’s global average was just below that, at 58.44 degrees.
- Atlantic Ocean reaches highest temperature since records began in 1850: Surface temperatures in the North Atlantic have reached “unprecedented” temperatures, nearly 3 degrees warmer than typical summer temperatures. The number – the highest since in a series of temperature records from 1850 – breaking records “by a wide margin,” according to the British Meteorological Office.
Yes, heat waves have always happened. But….
Heat waves have always happened. But the ones are now hotter and happen more often. A study published in May found that the extreme heat in Spain and Portugal experienced this spring there should only be about a 1 in 400 chance of it happening in any given year. The temperature there was 36 degrees above the average for May this year.
Contributing: Dinah Pulver