Last month was the hottest July in 174 years, and the world is likely heading toward an even warmer 2024, scientists indicated on Monday, underlining the urgency to cap greenhouse gas emissions.
The average global surface temperature in July was 1.12 C above average, making it the warmest July in the 174-year record of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, scientists at the agency said on Monday.
As July is the globe's warmest month of the year from a climatological perspective, July 2023 was also likely the Earth's warmest month on record, they said.
Their point was echoed by the Goddard Institute for Space Studies at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, which said in a report on Monday that last month was 0.24 C warmer than any previous July and any other month in its global temperature record, which dates back to 1880.
The institute said the hotter-than-usual July continues a long-term trend of warming, driven primarily by human-caused greenhouse gas emissions, as the top five hottest months of July since 1880 have all been in the past five years.
The findings are consistent with a paper titled "The State of the Global Climate 2022" that the World Meteorological Organization released in April, which found that the years 2015 to 2022 were the eight warmest ever.
"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," WMO's Secretary-General Petteri Taalas said, according to a press release from the United Nations agency on July 31.
"The need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is more urgent than ever before. Climate action is not a luxury but a must," Taalas said.
Gavin Schmidt, director of the NASA institute, said the rising global temperatures are being reflected in real heat extremes that people are experiencing locally.
"We can say with some confidence now that the heat waves we are seeing in North Africa, the Middle East, the US Southwest, China and southern Europe are being directly impacted by the fact that the whole planet is warming," Schmidt told reporters on Monday.
In the United States, July 2023 was hot and stormy, with torrential rain and scorching temperatures impacting much of the nation, NOAA said in a release last week.
It said the average temperature across the contiguous US last month was 2.1 degrees above average, with July 2023 ranking as the 11th-hottest July in the 129-year climate record of the country.
In China, temperatures in July averaged at 23 C, which is 0.9 degree higher than in normal years, the China Meteorological Administration said early this month.
Chinese President Xi Jinping announced in 2020 that China will peak its carbon emissions before 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality before 2060.
Schmidt said next year could be even hotter than this year because of El Nino, a Pacific warming phenomenon, which NOAA said has an increasing chance of becoming strong.
"The biggest impact of El Nino will actually occur in 2024," Schmidt said at a news briefing. "So we're anticipating that not only is 2023 going to be exceptionally warm and possibly a record warm year, but we anticipate that 2024 will be warmer still."
At the briefing, Sarah Kapnick, chief scientist of NOAA, said it is "virtually certain"— over a 99 percent chance — that 2023 will rank among the five warmest years on record with a nearly 50 percent probability that 2023 will be the warmest on record.
Noting that El Nino can temporarily warm the globe by approximately 0.1 degree, equivalent to the expected warming over a 10-year time horizon, Kapnick said the next few years "will be the coolest in the rest of my life" if the world continues to emit greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said it certainly is "self-evident" that the Earth is heating up.
"Mother Nature is sending us a message, and that message is we better act now before it's too late to save our climate," Nelson said. "The bottom line also is that there are no political boundaries and there are no geographical boundaries; we are all in this together."