July 2021 was officially the hottest month humans have ever recorded. This July narrowly beat out three previous months in 2016, 2019, and 2020 that had tied for the previous title. The fact that all of this has happened so recently just screams climate change.
“In this case, first place is the worst place to be,” Rick Spinrad, administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), said in a statement. NOAA confirmed the new temperature record today, which Spinrad said, “adds to the disturbing and disruptive path that climate change has set for the globe.”
Scientists have more evidence than ever that links climate change to more extreme weather, especially when it comes to heat. By burning fossil fuels, humans have influenced the weather around the world, a major new United Nations climate report said definitively when it was published earlier this week. Almost every region of the world, apart from the polar regions, has seen a rise in extreme heat events since the 1950s, according to the new report.
“Climate change is a problem that is here now. Nobody’s safe, and it’s getting worse faster,” Inger Andersen, executive director of the United Nations Environment Programme, said in an August 9 press conference.
While last month was the hottest month in the books globally since records started 142 years ago, the heat was particularly bad in some regions. July absolutely smashed the land-surface temperature record for the entire Northern Hemisphere, according to NOAA. Asia also had its hottest July on record.
Such unprecedented heat can take a heavy toll even in typically cooler regions, especially since people and infrastructure there haven’t had to adapt to such hot summers — until now. Southwest Canada and the Pacific Northwest, for example, have suddenly suffered repeated heatwaves this summer that mangled roads, killed hundreds of people, sent thousands more to emergency departments, and fueled massive wildfires. The most severe heatwave to hit, which took place in late June, would have been “virtually impossible” without climate change, an international team of researchers determined. It was also declared the “most extreme” summer heatwave in North America since records began.
August has been scorching, too. Another heatwave is bearing down on the Pacific Northwest. Europe might have seen its hottest day on record on August 11, when the mercury rose to 48.8 degrees Celsius (119.8 degrees Fahrenheit) in Sicily, Italy. The World Meteorological Organization is still working to verify that record. But if greenhouse gas emissions continue to grow, the world is likely to see more and more temperature records fall.