By Brock Dodds
October 1, 2023
UPDATED 12:00PM EST
[Photo credit: NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies]
When we look back on 2023 in a decade, there will be one thing we remember before anything else: 2023 was the year the effects of climate change became visceral and real. Fires in Maui, devastating hurricanes, and record-breaking heat swept the globe in the summer of 2023. Perhaps nothing will be more emblematic of this climate benchmark than the fact that July 2023 was the hottest month on record since records began in 1880, according to NASA.
Scientists at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies track global heat data and report temporal temperature averages and records on a regular basis. Reliable data goes back to 1880, which makes the record-breaking heat especially remarkable, as 1880 is after the greenhouse gas emissions from the Industrial Revolution began to heat the planet. Scientists at the Goddard Institute track surface air data from tens of thousands of stations around the world to construct their averages. Weather stations, often small and unassuming, are absolutely integral to tracking the Earth’s temperature. An immense amount of data is collected from these stations, and it requires grueling analysis by computers and scientists alike. Assembling data from July 2023, the scientists found that this month was the hottest ever recorded by 0.24 degrees Celsius, an amount that is actually quite significant. It was hotter than the average July during the years 1951-1980 by 1.18 degrees Celsius.
This record did not come without some precedent. It’s on the heels of significant, continental heat waves and extreme weather events in recent years. In regions of North America in 2021, all time records were broken by over 5 degrees centigrade. Europe experienced asignificant heat wave in the summer of 2022, which is estimated to have caused 61,672 excess deaths. Pakistan experienced massive, deadly flooding in 2022, imperiling a country already reeling from economic woes.
We can only expect to see more devastating climate impacts in the future. As greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise and countries perpetually stumble in reduction efforts, it seems likely that the world will shift from just climate change prevention to climate change mitigation. The climate emergency is here, and its effects are conspicuous and only becoming more intense. Hopefully, the July 2023 record heat will not just be remembered as a benchmark, but will also be remembered as an effective wake-up call. The world should take this record and the events surrounding it as a warning for the future, and should take decisive action.
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