These figures were collected by the World Meteorological Organization and the Copernicus Climate Change program and are based on the first 29 days of July. The data reveals temperatures in July 2019 were on par with – or “marginally warmer” than – July 2016, which is not only the warmest July on record but the warmest month.
But there is one big, crucial difference between July 2016 and July 2019. The former was in the middle of one of the strongest occurrences of the El Niño phenomenon – a climatic event that contributes to heightened global temperatures. July 2019 was not.
“We have always lived through hot summers. But this is not the summer of our youth. This is not your grandfather’s summer,” UN Secretary-General António Guterres said at a press conference
“This year alone we have seen temperature records shatter from New Delhi to Anchorage – from Paris to Santiago – from Adelaide to the Arctic Circle. If we do not take action on climate change now, these extreme weather events are just the tip of the iceberg. And that iceberg is also rapidly melting.”
Last month saw blistering heatwaves and record-breaking temperatures across Europe, with thermometers hitting 41.8°C (107.2°F) in Belgium, 38.7°C (101.6°F) in Britain, and 40.8°C (10.5.4°F) in Luxembourg – forcing the redrawing of weather maps to include temperatures above 40°C (10.4°F) for the first time.
Meanwhile, in Paris, temperatures skyrocketed to 42.6°C (10.8.7°F) on July 25. It’s a temperature more akin to summer in Bagdad, Iraq, than northern France. Helsinki, the capital of Finland, typically sees July highs of 21°C (69.8°F). This year, it set a new station record of 33.2°C (91.8°F). The station Nord – just 900 kilometers (560 miles) from the North Pole – registered temperatures of 16°C (60°F). (It ordinarily sees July highs of 7°C/44°F.)
“Just as one swallow does not make a summer, one record month does not tell us much on its own since the fickle nature of weather systems and the slow sloshing about of the ocean can sometimes temporarily warm or cool the planet,” Richard Allan, Professor of Climate Science at the University of Reading, said in a statement.
“However, the clustering of recent record hot years and months, the longer-term warming trend and our understanding of the physics of the atmosphere and oceans confirms that our climate is heating up, it’s our fault and the way to stop this is to reduce and begin removing emissions of greenhouse gases.”
The World Health Organization estimates the number of people exposed to heatwaves has already increased by 125 million (from 2000 to 2016). While the UK-based Met Office predicts Britain will experience a heatwave like that of 2018 once every two years by 2050.
In sum, this is a problem we can expect to get worse.
“Every heatwave occurring in Europe today is made more likely and more intense by human-induced climate change,” wrote the authors of a study on the human contribution to France’s July 2019 heatwave.
“Currently such an event is estimated to occur with a return period of 30 years, but similarly frequent heatwaves would have likely been about 4ºC cooler a century ago. In other words, a heatwave that intense is occurring at least 10 times more frequently today than a century ago.”
The July heatwave is now affecting large parts of the Arctic and Greenland, which are seeing temperatures 10 to 15ºC (50-59°F) above the norm. This is causing alarmingly abnormal levels of ice melt and is setting off wildfires, which are exacerbating the situation further.
Estimated CO2 emissions from Arctic Circle wildfires in July 2019 are 75.5047 megatonnes – twice that of July 2018 and on par with 2017 fossil fuel emissions for the whole of Colombia.
“Preventing irreversible climate disruption is the race of our lives, and for our lives. It is a race that we can and must win,” said Guterres.
“The world’s leading scientists tell us we must limit temperature increases to 1.5ºC if we are to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. We need to cut greenhouse emissions by 45% by 2030. We need carbon neutrality by 2050. And we need to mainstream climate change risks across all decisions to drive resilient growth, reduce vulnerability and avoid investments that could cause greater damage.”
You can watch the full speech here.