Earth has just experienced its hottest three-month period on record by a significant margin. The global average temperature for June, July and August was 16.77°C (62.19°F), a whopping 0.66°C above average, according to the European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service. That temperature beat the previous record set in 2019 by almost three-tenths of a degree.
“Climate breakdown has begun,” said António Guterres, secretary-general of the United Nations, in a statement. “Our climate is imploding faster than we can cope with extreme weather events hitting every corner of the planet. Surging temperatures demand a surge in action.”
Last month was the hottest August in records going back to 1940 and the second hottest month ever after this July, when the average global temperature was 16.95°C (62.51°F). Ocean temperatures have been even warmer, averaging 20.98°C (69.76°F) in August – the new hottest month on record.
Both July and August were estimated to be 1.5°C above the pre-industrial average, temporarily reaching the limit on yearly average warming established by the Paris Agreement.
The average for the year to date is only 0.01°C behind 2016, which holds the record for the hottest year, with El Niño, a periodic buildup of warm water in the eastern Pacific, expected to keep boosting global temperatures.
This summer in the northern hemisphere has seen heatwaves fuel the EU’s largest ever wildfire in Greece and temperatures of up to 47°C (117°F), resulting in thousands of estimated deaths. Heat records have also been set in the US, where more than 60 million people are currently under heat alerts. It has been even hotter in Asia, where China saw its highest temperature ever recorded at 52.2°C (126°F).
In the southern hemisphere, where winter is just ending, Antarctic sea ice is 12 per cent below its average extent, a record low for this time of year.
“2023 is likely to be the warmest year people have ever experienced,” says Samantha Burgess at the Copernicus Climate Change Service. “A warmer world means more impacts from more intense and frequent extreme events such as the heatwaves, wildfires and flooding seen this summer. The UK is exposed to the increased climate risk from a warmer world, and the summer we’ve just experienced is likely to be one of the coolest summers over the next decade.”