PHOENIX — TikTok wasn’t the only one having a ‘hot girl summer’ — the Earth recorded the hottest summer on record, according to scientists at NASA.
The months of June, July and August combined were 0.41 degrees warmer than any summer in NASA’s record, scientists said. Global records began in 1880. August on its own was 2.2 degrees warmer than average.
“Summer 2023’s record-setting temperatures aren’t just a set of numbers – they result in dire real-world consequences,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said in a press release. “From sweltering temperatures in Arizona and across the country, to wildfires across Canada, and extreme flooding in Europe and Asia, extreme weather is threatening lives and livelihoods around the world.”
Climate scientist and oceanography at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab Josh Willis said the record breaking summer warmth has to do with high sea surface temperatures, fueled in part by the return of El Niño, which was “largely responsible” for this summer’s warmth.
El Niño is a natural climate phenomenon that includes warmer than average sea surface temperatures and higher sea levels in the central and eastern tropical pacific ocean.
The phenomenon can have “widespread effects,” bringing cooler, wetter conditions to the U.S. Southwest and drought to countries such as Indonesia and Australia, in the western Pacific. Scientists predict the biggest impacts of El Niño will occur in February, March and April 2023.
“With background warming and marine heat waves that have been creeping up on us for decades, this El Niño shot us over the hump for setting all kinds of records,” Willis said in a press release. “The heat waves that we experience now are longer, they’re hotter, and they’re more punishing. The atmosphere can also hold more water now, and when it’s hot and humid, it’s even harder for the human body to regulate its temperature.”
This summer is part of the larger, long-term trend warming driven primarily by human-caused greenhouse gas emissions, scientists said.
“Unfortunately, climate change is happening. Things that we said would come to pass are coming to pass,” said Gavin Schmidt, climate scientist and director of GISS. “And it will get worse if we continue to emit carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into our atmosphere.”
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