Climate Change

Over 80% people felt climate change-induced heat in July 2023

Temperature records set on all continents in July, including areas in winter

By Akshit Sangomla
Published: Thursday 03 August 2023
Temperatures in Death Valley, California, United States reached 53.3°C on July 16, 2023. The highest temperature ever recorded on Earth was 56.7°C, also in Death Valley — the hottest place on the planet. Photo: iStock

July 2023 was likely the hottest month on record, fuelled by global warming and an El Nino event in the equatorial Pacific Ocean. The impacts were felt worldwide, with many regions in the northern hemisphere undergoing simultaneous heatwaves. 

Around 6.5 billion people, or 81 per cent of the global population, experienced at least one day of high temperatures made at least three times more likely by climate change, according to a report released by nonprofit Climate Central. 

Climate Central analyses the exposure of people to the impacts of climate change, especially high temperatures, through its climate shift index (CSI) every day. A CSI of three indicates that climate change has made it three times more likely to face the temperatures experienced by a specific population on a given day. 

Read more: In pictures: Wildfires blaze through Canada thanks to unusually hot, dry spring

The current analysis was conducted across 200 countries and 4,700 cities from July 1 to July 31. 

There were temperature records set on all continents in July. Africa recorded its highest nighttime temperature of 39.6 degrees Celsius in Adrar, Algeria; China in Asia recorded its highest temperature ever at 52.2°C in the western Xinjiang region on July 16. 

Many countries in Europe, including parts of Spain and Italy, broke all-time temperature records. In the United States in North America, the city of Phoenix, Arizona, experienced a record breaking 31 consecutive days of temperatures above 43.3°C. The previous record was 18 days in 1974. 

Temperatures also soared to 53.3°C in Death Valley in California, which is close to the hottest air temperature ever recorded on the planet. 

An important thing to note here is that for 10-12 per cent of the global population living in the southern hemisphere, it is winter. While the winters in Australia and New Zealand are warmer than normal, there was a winter heatwave in many South American countries such as Peru and Uruguay. 

Further, at least 2 billion people — 25 per cent of the global population — felt a very strong influence of climate change of CSI three or more on each of the 31 days of July, the report said. The exposure peaked on July 10, when 3.5 billion people experienced a CSI level of three or more. 

Read more: Increased chance of earth breaching 1.5°C in next five years

Among regions, the worst hit were the small island developing states — including 11 in the Caribbean — which accounted for 16 of the 28 countries with the highest average July CSI level of five. 

There were 768 cities with an average CSI of four or higher and 870 cities had a CSI of three or higher for 25 days or more. The highest average CSI was recorded in Jeddah at 4.9 for all 31 days of July. The city with the highest CSI during a heat event was Tunis, Tunisia, at 5.8. 

“Without effective and equitable measures to adapt to this altered climate, more people will be at risk from heat and other extreme weather events more often,” the report said.

As the climate continues to warm, these impacts will almost certainly intensify, it added.

“In the near-term, extreme heat is likely to continue as El Nino conditions continue and strengthen. In the long-term, global and local temperature records are certain to be broken again and again in future years until greenhouse gas emissions are cut to zero,” the report concluded.

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