Earth just had its hottest 3 months on record

Earth: Many people wading in a wide creek between trees.
Austin, Texas, was one of the locations that had a scorching summer. The Barton Springs Pool is one place locals can come to cool off. A new report said that the past 3 months were the hottest on record for Earth. Image via Tomek Baginski/ Unsplash.

The hottest 3 months for Earth on record

The World Meteorological Organization announced on September 6, 2023, that Earth just had its hottest three months on record. August was 2.7 degrees F (1.5 C) warmer than the preindustrial average for 1850-1900. It was the hottest August on record, and August was the second-hottest month ever, behind July 2023.

Not only was this Northern Hemisphere summer a scorcher, but so far 2023 is the second hottest year on record, behind 2016. In 2016, temperatures were affected by a powerful El Niño. And scientists say we’re heading into an El Niño year now.

The World Meteorological Organization Secretary-General Petteri Taalas said:

The Northern Hemisphere just had a summer of extremes, with repeated heatwaves fueling devastating wildfires, harming health, disrupting daily lives and wreaking a lasting toll on the environment. In the Southern Hemisphere, Antarctic sea ice extent was literally off the charts, and the global sea surface temperature was once again at a new record. It is worth noting that this is happening before we see the full warming impact of the El Niño event, which typically plays out in the second year after it develops.

It’s hot in the sea, too

Earth’s oceans and poles were also warm the last three months. The WMO report said:

August as a whole saw the highest global monthly average sea surface temperatures on record across all months, at 20.98°C [69.76 F]. Temperatures exceeded the previous record (March 2016) every single day in August.

Antarctic sea ice extent remained at a record low level for the time of year, with a monthly value 12% below average, by far the largest negative anomaly for August since satellite observations began in the late 1970s. Arctic sea ice extent was 10% below average, but well above the record minimum of August 2012.

Earth is getting hotter

Officials didn’t mince words about what the past three hot months signal. UN Secretary-General António Guterres said:

Our planet has just endured a season of simmering: the hottest summer on record. Climate breakdown has begun. Scientists have long warned what our fossil fuel addiction will unleash. Surging temperatures demand a surge in action. Leaders must turn up the heat now for climate solutions. We can still avoid the worst of climate chaos, and we don’t have a moment to lose.

The Washington Post recently reported some positive signs in civilization’s efforts against climate change. You can read more about those advances here.

In addition, Carlo Buontempo, Director of the Copernicus Climate Change Service, ECMWF, said:

Eight months into 2023, so far we are experiencing the second warmest year to date, only fractionally cooler than 2016, and August was estimated to be around 1.5°C [2.7 F] warmer than pre-industrial levels. What we are observing, not only new extremes but the persistence of these record-breaking conditions, and the impacts these have on both people and planet, are a clear consequence of the warming of the climate system.

Our hot summer, in charts

Chart with red vertical bars steadily climbing then quickly peaking on right.
This chart shows the global-mean surface air temperatures for the 30 warmest Northern Hemisphere summers (June-July-August) in the ERA5 data record, ranked from lower to higher temperature. Data via ERA5. Image via C3S/ ECMWF.
Blue bars below a zero line then a few red bars above on right.
This chart shows globally averaged surface air temperature anomalies relative to 1991–2020 for each August from 1940 to 2023. Data via ERA5. Image via C3S/ ECMWF.
Jiggly lines from left to right with lower lines in blue shades, higher in red, highest in bold red.
This chart shows the daily global sea surface temperature (°C) averaged over the region of 60°S–60°N, plotted for each year from January 1, 1979, to August 31, 2023. The years 2023 and 2016 are shown with thick lines shaded in bright red and dark red, respectively. Other years are thin lines and shaded according to the decade, from blue (1970s/80s) to brick red (2020s). Data via ERA5. Image via C3S/ ECMWF.

Bottom line: The World Meteorological Organization said that the last three months were the hottest on record for Earth. See charts and hear what officials have to say.

Via World Meteorological Organization

September 8, 2023

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Kelly Kizer Whitt

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