Global temperatures soared to historic peaks on consecutive days, Monday and Tuesday, heralding and Wednesday what could be a year of heat records, a stark reminder of the escalating climate crisis.
The Climate Change Institute at the University of Maine reported that the world’s average temperature on Monday hit 62.62 degrees Fahrenheit, a record that was toppled just a day later when it rose to 62.92°F.
Professor Bill McGuire, a specialist in geophysical climate hazards at University College London, voiced alarm at the sequential records, describing the phenomenon as “unprecedented and deeply disturbing.”
Scientists warn that this trend of shattered daily heat records is not over and is likely to persist in the coming weeks, with possible new records as early as Wednesday.
Increasing global temperatures are driven by escalating greenhouse gas emissions and the recurring El Niño weather pattern, a warm air current from the tropical Pacific Ocean that appears every two to seven years, according to experts.
“Anticipate even higher temperatures in the upcoming 6 weeks,” cautioned Robert Rohde, the principal scientist at the environmental research organization Berkeley Earth, in a Tuesday morning tweet. He emphasized, “Global warming is ushering us into uncharted territories.”
Michael Mann, head of the Center for Science Sustainability and the Media at the University of Pennsylvania, predicted via Twitter that this year will likely be the hottest on record, fueled by the combined forces of global warming and a strong El Niño. He warned, “We should brace ourselves for the warmest month, week, day, and possibly even hour.”
Friederike Otto, a climate scientist at Britain’s Imperial College London’s Grantham Institute for Climate Change and the Environment, warned Reuters that the record-breaking heat was not cause for celebration, but rather a harbinger of doom for people and ecosystems.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported that since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution, average global temperatures have escalated by 2°F, causing more intense and prolonged heatwaves.
Over 50 million Americans, predominantly in the South, Southwest, Midwest, and Mid-Atlantic regions, are subject to heat advisories as of Wednesday. This is part of a broader trend of similar heatwaves throughout the Northern Hemisphere. Reports from around the world include a deadly heatwave in India claiming at least 44 lives, the UK experiencing its hottest June since record-keeping commenced in 1884, and China registering a record-breaking six-month streak of temperatures above 95°F.
New heat records were set in Quebec and Peru early this week, and high temperatures have contributed to Canadian wildfires that have blanketed the northern United States with smoke. Beijing broke records with nine consecutive days of temperatures over 95°F, including an unprecedented three days exceeding 104°F. Last week, over 2,000 pilgrims were affected by heat-related illnesses during the hajj in Saudi Arabia, where temperatures reached a scorching 118°F.
However, local weather patterns can still exhibit variance. Coastal California has recently experienced a cooler and cloudier spell due to a series of low-pressure systems, as Miguel Miller from the National Weather Service in San Diego explained to the New York Times last month. The records broken this week represent a global average.
Despite being winter in the Southern Hemisphere, it too is experiencing unusual warmth. Antarctica’s Argentine Islands set a new July temperature record of 47.6°F, with Wednesday’s average forecast expected to be 8.1°F above the historical average from 1979 to 2000.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reports that roughly 40% of the world’s oceans are currently undergoing heatwaves, the highest proportion since satellite tracking began in 1991. NOAA predicts this figure could reach 50% by September, a situation NOAA research scientist Dillon Amaya describes as “somewhat alarming.” Generally, only about 10% of the world’s oceans are subjected to heatwave conditions at any one time. Such marine heatwaves can cause fish deaths, coral bleaching, and intensify hurricane activity. Since 1901, ocean temperatures have risen by 1.5°F.
Climate scientists are sounding the alarm, stating that the extreme heat we’re currently experiencing is just the tip of the iceberg if greenhouse gas emissions—primarily caused by burning fossil fuels like coal, oil, and natural gas—are not significantly curtailed.
Stefan Rahmstorf, a climate scientist at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Research in Germany, told the Associated Press, “The mounting warmth of our planet, fueled by the consumption of fossil fuels, is not unexpected—it has been anticipated since the 19th century. However, it poses grave risks for us and the ecosystems on which we rely. We need to halt it promptly.”