Tuesday 17 September 2019

After hottest month on record, our climate fight is clear to see

Political temperature: Students march in protest during a 'Fridays for Future' demonstration in Berlin yesterday. Photo: MONIKA SKOLIMOWSKA/AFP/Getty Images
Political temperature: Students march in protest during a 'Fridays for Future' demonstration in Berlin yesterday. Photo: MONIKA SKOLIMOWSKA/AFP/Getty Images

Harry Cockburn

July was officially the hottest month on record, it has been confirmed.

The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced yesterday July was 0.95C warmer than the 20th-century average for the month and had narrowly topped the previous record set in 2016, by 0.03C.

Meteorologists had released preliminary data suggesting the record had been broken, leading to warnings about the urgency required to mitigate the effects of the climate crisis.

Temperatures have been recorded every year since 1880. July 2019 was about 1.2C warmer than the pre-industrial era, according to the data.

Scientists have said the upward trend will probably continue because of human activity. Following the preliminary results earlier this month, the World Meteorological Organisation secretary-general Petteri Taalas said July had "rewritten climate history, with dozens of new temperature records at local, national and global level".

UN Secretary-General António Guterres also stressed his concern. "We have always lived through hot summers. But this is not the summer of our youth. This is not your grandfather's summer," he said this month.

"All of this means that we are on track for the period from 2015 to 2019 to be the five hottest years on record. 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. Indeed, the iceberg is also rapidly melting.

"Preventing irreversible climate disruption is the race of our lives, and for our lives. It is a race we can and must win."

The results had been expected after several European countries reported all-time temperature records last month. According to NOAA, nine of the 10 hottest Julys on record have occurred since 2005 and last month was the 43rd consecutive July above the 20th-century average. June had already set a record as the hottest of the past 140 years.

The record temperatures notched up in July were accompanied by other climate events that have caused concern. Average Arctic sea ice was almost 20pc below average in July, less than the previous historic low of 2012. Last month's heatwave set the new highest UK temperature of 38.7C, recorded at Cambridge Botanic Garden. The previous record was 38.5C, in Faversham, Kent in August 2003.

France also saw previous highs smashed, with temperatures hitting 42.6C in Paris - the same as a typical July day in Baghdad. The northern city of Lille also saw 41.6C, which broke its previous mark by 4C.

A 75-year-old record was broken in the Netherlands with temperatures reaching 40.7C in Gilze-Rijen; Germany saw 42.6C in Lingen; and Belgium hit 41.8C in Begijnendijk.

Even in Helsinki, Finland the mercury rose to a record 33.2C, while parts of the US also saw new highs. The temperatures stimulated rapid ice melt in Greenland, which had already seen an extraordinary event between July 11-20 this year. Polar scientists believe 2019 could set new records for ice loss in the country.

North of the Arctic Circle the heat sparked massive wildfires, producing CO2 emissions equal to Colombia in 2017. Hundreds of fires, many of which could be clearly seen from space, ravaged Siberia, affecting more than three million hectares of land.

Experts have said the heatwaves are linked to human activity, which has more than doubled their probability in places. The year is also 0.95C above the long-term average, but still slightly behind 2016.

Irish Independent

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