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It’s possible July could be the hottest month in 120,000 years: climate scientists

July is likely to be the hottest month ever, according to just-released data from climate scientists.

A group of experts from around the world gathered Wednesday in a media briefing to report new heat data for July that suggests the month will break a record.

According to Karsten Haustein, a climate scientist at Leipzig University in Germany, projections show that July could be the hottest month on Earth.

“Many of you will have heard about the daily record early on this month. We just exceeded 17 degrees (Celsius),” Haustein said, referring to the global average temperature. “And this is essentially what you’re going to see here.”

The average temperature is at least 0.2 C warmer than the previous record-breaking month of July 2019, and the current projections suggest that the Earth hasn’t been this hot in approximately 120,000 years.

The July predictions follow a string of data experts are watching to understand the impacts of human emissions on the world and the natural disasters that come with it.

Among the data are smaller records that have been broken in recent weeks.

On July 4, the world soared to an average temperature of 17.18 C, making it the hottest day in at least 44 years. June also broke a record this year, when the global temperature climbed 1.05 C above the 20th Century average, the first time a summer month was more than one degree Celsius hotter than normal.

Although Wednesday’s presentation, embargoed until Thursday morning, came days before the end of the month, scientists are looking ahead to what they expect the final data to show.


According to Haustein’s data, which combines information from multiple weather agencies, this month is expected to between 1.3 and 1.7 C above the average global temperature calculated before humans began burning fossil fuels.

This is likely to break the July 2019 record by 0.2 C, a 174-year-old observational record.

“Which begs the question: Is it the warmest July? Usually, you’ll wait until the month is over, but then again, as you can tell, it’s (already) quite above the old record,” Haustein said Wednesday.

Haustein said a weather monitoring product combined historical observations from around the world with current temperatures registered by the Global Forecast System, to predict whether July would exceed the 2019 record.

“It’s certain at this point already that we are in absolutely new record territory,” he said.

Scientists said they knew this July is likely to be the hottest in recent times, so they then looked to see whether they could calculate if it will be the hottest in the Earth’s history.

“To say, ‘Is it the warmest for the last 100 years, or 1,000, or even 10,000 years?’ It’s a trickier question to answer,” Haustein said. “Before 1850 we didn’t have these observations, at least not enough to say something meaningful about the global mean.”

Researchers have documented temperatures from millions of years ago through natural sources like tree rings, ice cores, coral and lake sediments. This is the study of paleoclimatology.

Haustein said that comparing data collected through paleoclimatology to the temperatures this month suggests July could be the hottest month in 120,000 years.

“There’s a decent chance that this month essentially is the hottest known since the paleo records,” he said.


The consequences of the warming planet are playing out across the world not only in terms of the heat records broken but through floods, wildfires and severe storms, scientists say.

In Canada, 4,785 wildfires have burned through over 12 million hectares of land, some of which were caused by increased lightning and drier-than-usual ground.

Nova Scotia, which saw this year the largest wildfire in its history, is now dealing with flooding so severe it’s been called “more than a one-in-a-hundred-year” event.

Wildfires and extreme weather events are becoming common enough that they’re driving up insurance rates, some experts say.

Speaking at the presentation of the record-breaking temperature data on Wednesday, an executive with a Canadian organization that focuses on climate change spoke to what she’s noticed in recent years.

“My Canadian family comes from Nova Scotia, which is currently in its fourth state of emergency in the last year,” Catherine Abreu, executive director of Destination Zero, said at the news conference. “I think all of us can reflect on the terrible impacts that we and our communities are experiencing from the extreme climate change.”

Abreu said the forecast from Haustein serves as yet another desperate plea from experts to take action to slow the warming of the planet. She highlighted renewable energy as one of the key ways to lower the reliance on oil and gas, allowing for what she called a more sustainable future.

“We need to unlock the level of ambition to address these impacts and to claw our way back from this runaway climate crisis,” she said. 

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