By Kathleen Berger, Executive Producer of Science and Technology
The record-setting string of 31 consecutive days above 110 degrees in Phoenix, Arizona is part of an unrelenting series of summer heat waves in the Southwest and Southern U.S. The dangerously hot conditions this summer made for a historical heat wave in Phoenix while baking Texas and other areas of the South, breaking daily high temperature records. In July, Phoenix had the hottest month ever observed in a U.S. city and July 2023 is the 11th– warmest July on record in the U.S.
July is confirmed as the Earth’s warmest month on record of any month by a large margin, according to the European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S). The average global temperature was more than half a degree Fahrenheit (a third of a degree Celsius) above the previous record, set in 2019, according to C3S. And the data shows the world also just went through the hottest June on record. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA), the average global surface (land and ocean) temperature in June was 1.89 degrees F (1.05 degrees C) above average, ranking June 2023 as Earth’s warmest June on record.
Scientists say this year is increasingly likely to become the hottest year on record.
“It’s likely that 2023 will break records as the warmest year ever,” said Michael E. Wysession, PhD, Professor of Earth, Environmental, and Planetary Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis. “This summer, June and July, these months have been the warmest months ever by a lot. So, we really seem to be on a sort of record-shattering trajectory.”
Wysession is closely observing the summer of 2023 and doesn’t expect an end to summers like this one.
“This is our future. This is it. I mean, things will just get worse.”
Wysession said with the record-breaking global heat and extreme downpours, it’s hard to ignore that something unusual is going on with the weather in 2023. Wysession had published that he’s expecting unusually high temperatures to continue through at least 2025, which means even more extreme weather in the near future.
“When I said in that paper, ‘continue, at least through 2025,’ that doesn’t mean 2026 we go back to how we were in prerevolutionary times,” Wysession explained. “This is the rest of your life. This is the rest of my kid’s life. With the increase in greenhouse gases, almost always, each year will be worse than the one before. Now, these small fluctuations mean you may hit an extreme situation in 2025, and 2026 might be a little bit less, but it will still be much more than 2020.”
Wysession said the heat domes will get stronger and grow larger. He points to a study that shows a greater concern by the year 2028.
“There is a 50% chance that we will topple 1.5 degrees Celsius above preindustrial times by the year 2028. That’s a pretty dire warning because once you start getting that warm, you’re on the verge of hitting some of these major climate tipping points that are basically points of no return.”
Wysession explained that humans have increased the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere by 50%, primarily through combustion of fossil fuels in vehicles and power plants. Human activities have been increasing temperatures gradually, at an average of about 0.2 F (0.1 C) per decade. He said the best way to help would be an immediate and drastic shift away from fossil fuels.
Three natural factors are making matters more of a hot mess, by helping to drive up global temperatures and fuel disasters this year: El Niño, solar fluctuations and a massive underwater volcanic eruption. Because of the unfortunate timing of several parts of the climate system, on top of global warming caused by people, Wysession said that it seems the odds are not in our favor.
Wysession explained the three contributing natural factors in HEC Media’s video story!