July 2023 was the hottest month in the last 120,000 years

The Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S) confirmed last week that July was the hottest month on record. The average global temperature in July was 16.95 degrees Celsius (62.51 degrees Fahrenheit), a third of a degree above the previous record set in 2019. Usually, global temperature records are only set by hundredths or tenths of a degree, so this difference is extremely unusual.

According to C3S calculations, July 2023 was 0.7 degrees Celsius (1.3 degrees Fahrenheit) warmer than the average July between 1991 and 2020. Ocean temperatures exceeded the average for the previous three decades by half a degree Celsius (0.9 degrees Fahrenheit).

Record ocean temperatures

More alarmingly, the North Atlantic Ocean was 1.05 degrees Celsius (1.9 degrees Fahrenheit) warmer than average, while Antarctica set record low sea ice extent (15 percent below average).

“We have just witnessed the setting of new absolute records for global air and ocean surface temperatures in July. These records have serious implications for people and the planet, which are being subjected to increasingly frequent and intense extreme events,” said C3S Deputy Director Samantha Burgess.

“2023 is currently the third warmest year on record with a 0.43 degree Celsius deviation from the mean, and the global average temperature in July is 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. Even if this is a temporary phenomenon, it shows the need for ambitious efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, which are the main cause of these records.”

Unprecedented warming

Experts say the average global temperature in July has already reached 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, dangerously close to exceeding the limit set by the Paris Agreement in 2015.

This unprecedented warming has led to deadly heat waves in the Southwestern United States, Mexico, Europe and Asia, as well as a host of other extreme weather events, including powerful storms and wildfires.

Catastrophic weather patterns

Scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) report that the U.S. has already experienced 15 catastrophic weather events this year (the most in seven months since they began tracking such events in 1980), causing more than $1 billion in damage.

“These records have serious implications for people and the planet, which are subject to increasingly frequent and intense extreme events,” Burgess warned.

Shocking record

According to NOAA, which has kept records of global temperatures since 1850, July’s temperature was higher than any other month since the mid-19th century. However, experts say it is actually the hottest month in a much longer period of time.

“This is an astonishing record and certainly makes July the hottest month on Earth in the last 10,000 years,” said climatologist Stefan Rahmstorf of the Climate Impact Institute in Potsdam, citing research that used tree ring data and other proxies to confirm that we are now experiencing the warmest period since the beginning of the Holocene more than 10,000 years ago.

And given the fact that there was an ice age before the Holocene, it’s safe to say that July was the hottest month in the last 120,000 years.

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