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Tourists at the Colosseum in Rome a day after new record-high temperature of 41.8C was measured in the capital Rome. Alamy Stock Photo
Climate Change

Nasa climatologist says July likely to be hottest month on record

Gavin Schmidt said the trend of extreme heat is unmistakable.

A TOP NASA climatologist has said that July 2023 will probably be the world’s hottest month in “hundreds, if not thousands, of years”.

This month has already seen daily records shattered according to tools run by the European Union and the University of Maine, which combine ground and satellite data into models to generate preliminary estimates.

Though they differ slightly from one another, the trend of extreme heat is unmistakable and will likely be reflected in the more robust monthly reports issued later by US agencies, Gavin Schmidt said in a Nasa briefing with reporters.

“We are seeing unprecedented changes all over the world — the heat waves that we’re seeing in the US in Europe and in China are demolishing records, left, right and center,” he added.

What’s more, the effects cannot be attributed solely to the El Nino weather pattern, which “has really only just emerged.”

Though El Nino is playing a small role, “what we’re seeing is the overall warmth, pretty much everywhere, particularly in the oceans. We’ve been seeing record-breaking sea surface temperatures, even outside of the tropics, for many months now.

“And we will anticipate that is going to continue, and the reason why we think that’s going to continue, is because we continue to put greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere.”

What is happening right now is increasing the chances that 2023 will be the hottest year on record, which Schmidt currently assigned a “50-50 chance” based on his calculations, though he said other scientists had placed it as high as 80%.

“But we anticipate that 2024 will be an even warmer year, because we’re going to be starting off with that El Nino event that’s building now, and that will peak towards the end of this year.”

Schmidt’s warnings come as the world has been buffeted by fires and dire health warnings in the past week, in addition to broken temperature records.

European countries have been hit over the last week by the Cerberus heatwave, which has brought oppressively high temperatures in the 30s and 40s. 

The heatwave follows a record-hot start to July as the World Meteorological Organisation confirmed that the beginning of the month was the hottest week globally in modern records.

Last month, a report by the World Meteorological Organization and the European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service found that Europe, the world’s fastest-warming continent, was some 2.3 degrees Celsius hotter last year than in pre-industrial times.

Crop-withering drought, record sea-surface temperatures and unprecedented glacier melt were among the consequences laid out in the report.

The continent, which has been warming at twice the global average since the 1980s, saw its warmest summer on record last year, with countries including France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Spain and the United Kingdom experiencing their warmest year on record.

The world has warmed an average of nearly 1.2 degrees Celsius since the mid-1800s, unleashing a devastating cascade of extreme weather, including more intense heatwaves, more severe droughts in some areas and storms made more ferocious by rising seas.

Hardest hit are the most vulnerable people and the world’s poorest countries, who have done little to contribute to the fossil fuel emissions that drive up temperatures.

But impacts are becoming increasingly severe across the world, with regions in the northern hemisphere and around the poles seeing particularly rapid warming.

In Europe, the high temperatures “exacerbated the severe and widespread drought conditions, fuelled violent wildfires that resulted in the second largest burnt area on record, and led to thousands of heat-associated excess deaths,” said WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas.

Temperatures across the continent rose 1.5 degrees in 30 years, from 1991 to 2021, according to the report, the State of the Climate in Europe 2022.

Severe heat left more than 16,000 people dead last year, the report said, while floods and storms accounted for most of the $2 billion in damages from weather and climate extremes.

© AFP 2023

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