Most humans felt the scorching touch of climate change in July.
July 2023 was the hottest month ever recorded, and climate change made the elevated temperatures across 51 percent of Earth’s land surface at least five times more likely, according to a study released August 2 by Climate Central.
Researchers had already spotlighted the fingerprint of climate change on recent heat waves in China, North America and Europe (SN: 7/19/23; SN: 7/25/23). But the new report shows that during July, climate change’s influence extended across much of the globe, especially “a tropical band around the planet that includes Africa, South and Central America, the Malay Archipelago and many of the small island nations in both hemispheres,” Andrew Pershing, a climate scientist with the Princeton, N.J., nonprofit, said at an August 1 news briefing.
While the World Meteorological Organization has yet to officially deem July as Earth’s hottest recorded month, it has confirmed the month’s first three weeks were the hottest three-week period on record. The highest global average temperature — 17.23° Celsius (63.01° Fahrenheit) — was recorded on July 6 (SN: 7/13/23). “It’s pretty clear that July is going to hit the record,” Pershing said.
He and his colleagues used computers to simulate the world with contemporary climate warming — 1.27 degrees C above preindustrial levels — and without it to isolate the influence of climate change on temperatures worldwide.
Climate change is making hotter temperatures more likely to occur around the world, especially in the tropics. This map shows how many times more likely average temperatures for the month of July were due to climate change than without it.
How climate change is affecting global temperatures
Last month more than 6.5 billion people, or 81 percent of the human population, experienced heat that was at least three times more likely in a world with climate change than without it, the researchers found.
The recent return of El Niño, a natural climate phenomenon that temporarily raises global average temperatures, is also “definitely having an effect,” said Pershing.
But humans are warming the climate so fast that this year’s elevated temperatures could soon return even without El Niño. “This is the hottest El Niño year we’ve ever had,” Pershing said, “and five years from now, this will be a normal year.”