Provisional data has indicated that July 2019 will likely go down as the hottest month recorded on Earth.
The World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) said “July 2019 will be on par with, and possibly marginally warmer” than the previous warmest month ever, July 2016.
The figures, fed to the WMO by the Copernicus Climate Change Programme, run by the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts, are based on the first 29 days of July and show that global temperatures in July have been about 1.2C above pre-industrial levels.
Official data for the whole month of July will be published on Monday 5 August.
Even equalling the July 2016 record would be significant, experts say, because July 2016 saw global temperatures rise for an exceptionally strong El Niño phenomenon, which sees a rise of water temperature in the central and east-central equatorial Pacific – while it hasn’t been strong in 2019.
The exceptionally hot July came after June 2019 also broke temperature records around the world, becoming the hottest June ever recorded. All of the months of 2019 so far ranking among the four warmest for their time of year.
“We are on track for the period from 2015 to 2019 to be the five hottest years on record,” said the UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, calling the battle against climate change the “race of our lives, and for our lives”.
“This year alone, we have seen temperature records shattered from New Delhi to Anchorage, from Paris to Santiago, from Adelaide and 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.”
The recent heatwaves caused significant damage to the environment around the world, said WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas.
“The extraordinary heat was accompanied by dramatic ice melt in Greenland, in the Arctic and on European glaciers.
”Unprecedented wildfires raged in the Arctic for the second consecutive month, devastating once pristine forests.
“This is not science fiction. It is the reality of climate change. It is happening now and it will worsen in the future without urgent climate action.”
July has rewritten climate maps and history around the world.
France has seen its previous record-highs shattered in July, when temperatures reached 42.6C on 25 July – a temperature of a typical July day in Baghdad. The northern city of Lille saw 41.6C, which broke its previous by 4C, while the rest of northern France also experienced devastating wildfires – normally a rarity in the region.
Temperatures broke a 75-year-old record in the Netherlands (Gilve Rijen, 40.7C), while Germany (Lingen, 42.6C), the UK (Cambridge, 38.7C) and Belgium (41.8C) also set new national records. Even in Helsinki, Finland, the mercury rose to a record 33.2C, while parts of the US also suffered record-breaking hot conditions.
The high temperatures enhanced ice melting in Greenland, which had already seen an extraordinary melting event between 11 and 20 July this year. Polar scientists believe that 2019 could set new records for ice loss in Greenland.
In the Arctic and Greenland, the heat sparked massive wildfires, producing CO2 emissions equal to those of all of Colombia in 2017.
Hundreds of wildfires, some of which could be clearly seen from space, ravaged Siberia, affecting over three million hectares of land.
Experts say the heatwaves are linked to human activity, which has more than doubled their probability in some locations.
“Such intense and widespread heatwaves carry the signature of man-made climate change,” said Johannes Cullmann, Director of WMO’s Climate and Water Department.
Prof Dann Mitchell, associate professor of Atmosphere Science at the University of Bristol, said: “The warming trend is clear and the scientific evidence robustly points to this being caused by human-induced climate change.”
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said that global warming of 1.5C could pose climate-related risks to health, livelihoods, food security, water supply, human security, and economic growth.
Tens of thousands of people can die prematurely in heatwaves and such incidents were projected to get significantly worse in the future, so “fundamental infrastructure changes” are needed to adapt to climate change.
In September, the WMO will submit a report about the state of the climate between 2015 and 2019 to the UN Climate Action Summit.
-Independent and additional reporting by PA