July ‘Equalled, If Not Surpassed’ Record for World’s Hottest Month

Photo: AP

Sometimes the headline says it all. This is one of those cases, folks.

We’ve never recorded a hotter month on Earth than the one we just lived through, according to preliminary data kept by the European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Program. Heat records feel like they have become routine around the world this summer, but a new record stands out because, well, it’s about the whole world. When people talk about the climate crisis, this is it.

“Preventing irreversible climate disruption is the race of our lives and for our lives,” United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres said in an address announcing the new record on Thursday, as the World Meteorological Organization and Copernicus revealed the hellacious milestone. “It is a race we can—and must—win.”

The data is based on the first 29 days of the month and shows the planet as a whole was 1.2 degrees Celsius (2.2 degrees Fahrenheit) above the pre-industrial average. Because July is generally the hottest month on Earth, that makes this July the hottest month on record. Adding in the last days of July will likely result in a small adjustment. The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) tweeted that last month has “equalled, if not surpassed” July 2016, which previously set the record for the hottest month on the books. Either way, the data shows it was hot as hell.

Man, it’s a hot one.
Graphic: EU Copernicus

Of course, nobody feels the global average temperatures, but then billions of people around the world have felt the sizzle this July. A number of cities in Europe set their all-time high-temperature marks during a blistering heat wave that was made up to 100 times more likely due to climate change. that then moved to Greenland, setting off a nearly unprecedented meltdown of the island’s massive ice sheet. The eastern half of the U.S. roasted. Fires are blazing across the Arctic. Even Australia had its third-hottest July on record, raising the risks of wildfires as the country moves into spring and summer.

It’s rare for programs that track the global average temperature to release preliminary data, but Jonathan Fowler, a spokesperson for the WMO, told Earther that “given the importance of global engagement around the challenges posed by climate change and its impacts, there was an appetite to release figures at the highest international level as soon as the month ended.”

The inexorable rise in temperatures is largely driven by carbon pollution humans have chucked in the atmosphere for more than a century. But there are natural climate patterns that can send temperatures to new heights or depress them slightly. One of those patterns is El Niño, a natural climate shift that happens every few years and is characterized by warming of waters in the eastern Pacific. Those warm waters help heat the planet, which is why El Niño years tend to be hotter than years where there’s no El Niño or it’s cooler counterpart La Niña is in play.

You may recall that 2016 was the year of the Super El Niño, which helped boost July 2016 to its record-setter status. In comparison, 2019 has had an extremely weak El Niño. That makes the preliminary record all the more shocking, to say nothing of this June also taking the title for hottest June on record.

We’ve got five months left in the year, but the intense heat so far has already ensured 2019 will go down as one of the five warmest years in recorded history (all of which will have happened in the past five years). It’s just a question of where it will land. Oh, and the 2010s will be the hottest decade humans have recorded.

July is an exclamation point on what we already know: The heat dial has been cranked up by carbon dioxide and other climate pollutants, the impacts are clear, and if we keep using the atmosphere like a trash dump, things will get much, much worse. We know all this, and that our actions today—while they certainly won’t completely stop climate change—will determine just how much hotter the planet gets.

This post has been updated with comments from the WMO.


more recommended stories

  • Smoke Has Blotted Out the Sun in São Paulo as the Amazon Burns

    Smoke from human-ignited fires across the.

  • Anti-Protest Laws Are a Sign of Weakness

    Photo: AP Here is a simple.

  • Icelanders Mourn Loss of Okjökull Glacier With Ceremony, Plaque

    The shrinking of the Okjökull glacier.

  • Big Donors Are Pulling Out of Brazil’s Amazon Fund; That Could Spell Trouble for the Rainforest

    Photo: Getty Norway and Germany have.

  • Portugal Is Using Goats to Prepare for Wildfires, But There’s Not Enough Shepherds

    Goats used to clear brush in.

  • Elizabeth Warren’s Latest Plan Tackles U.S. Injustices Against Tribes and Their Lands

    Photo: Getty Elizabeth Warren is a.

  • Invasive Pests Are Devastating American Forests at an Alarming Rate

    New findings show that invasive species.

  • Hundreds Dead, a Million Displaced as Monsoon Rains Inundate India

    Look at all that water.Photo: AP.

  • Newark’s Lead-Tainted Water Crisis Is Getting Worse

    Photo: AP When Al Moussab had.

  • A Coalition of 22 States Are Suing the Trump Administration Over Its Weak Coal Rule

    New York State attorney general Letitia.

  • Lightning Struck Near the North Pole as the Arctic Continues to Unravel

    Photo: AP In the scheme of.

  • Endangered Species Act Faces Gutting by Trump Administration

    Photo: Getty At a time when.

  • So, Salmon Cannons Are A Thing

    Photo: Jeff Mitchell (Getty) A viral.

  • At Least 22 Dead, Over a Million Reported Displaced as Typhoon Lekima Makes Landfall in Eastern China

    At least 22 deaths have been.

  • Trump Administration Authorizes ‘Cyanide Bombs’ to Kill Feral Hogs. Seriously.

    Photo: Eric Gay (AP) On Thursday.

  • Mauna Kea’s Thirty Meter Telescope Is the Latest Front in the New Fight for Indigenous Sovereignty

    Native Hawaiian activists pray at the.

  • Twin Typhoons Approach East Asia With Terrifying Force

    Super Typhoon Lekima and Typhoon KrosaGIF:.

  • Welp, Using Volcanoes to Understand Geoengineering Might Not Really Work

    Eruption of Mount Pinatubo in the.

  • If You Think 30-50 Feral Hogs Sounds Bad, Just Wait

    Photo: Eric Gay (AP) Hey, it’s.

  • A Global Water Emergency Is Right Around the Corner—Unless We Stop It

    Photo: AP When Chennai, India’s main.

  • ‘Surprise’ Ocean Heat Waves Are Becoming More Common

    Photo: Getty There are two flavors.

  • Greenland Lost 12.5 Billion Tons of Ice in Record-Breaking, Single-Day Meltdown

    Image: Sean Gallup (Getty) After Greenland.

  • Climate Change Has Made Our Stormwater Infrastructure Obsolete

    Photo: AP We are not ready.

  • This Satellite Image Shows Everything Wrong With Greenland Right Now

    Photo: Getty If you could sum.

  • California Is First State Where Utilities Must Tell Customers if Their Water Is Contaminated by Dangerous Chemicals

    Photo: Getty If you don’t know.

  • Thunderstorms, 70 MPH Winds Could Affect Up to 52 Million People in the Northeast Today

    Photo: AP Powerful storms are roaring.

  • This Coalnado Is About as 2019 as It Gets

    GIF: Meredith Garofalo (Twitter) If last.

  • Are We Watching the Arctic Pass a Tipping Point This Summer?

    Wildfires burning in Siberia on July.

  • Why We’re Not Moving Forward With Our Climate Summit

    Illustration: Illustration: G/O Media/Getty A good.

  • Vietnam Seizes 275-Pound Haul of Rhino Horns, Seven Frozen Tiger Carcasses

    Image: Elaine Thompson (AP) In a.

  • Europe’s Heat Wave Threatens Record Melting of Greenland Ice Sheet

    The Greenland ice sheetPhoto: AP A.

  • Las Vegas is Literally Crawling with Grasshoppers

    Photo: Schalk van Zuydam (AP) As.