Burning up: July was globe's hottest month on record

Last month’s highest temperature of 61.86 degrees Fahrenheit surpassed the 1998 record by 0.14 degrees.

Ovidiu Micsik/Inquam Photos/REUTERS
Fishing boats are moored on the dry Danube riverbed as the water level drops due to hot temperatures in Calarasi, Romania, August 12, 2015.

The average global temperature peaked in July, making it the Earth’s hottest month on record, according to a recent report by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA).

July is typically the warmest month of the year. Last month’s highest temperature of 61.86 degrees Fahrenheit surpassed the 1998 record by 0.14 degrees, making it the highest monthly temperature known since NOAA began collecting this data in 1880.   

Earlier calculations by NASA and Japan’s Meteorological Agency also found July to be the hottest month on record.

“The world is warming. It is continuing to warm. That is being shown time and time again in our data," Jake Crouch, physical scientist at NOAA's National Centers for Environmental Information, told reporters Thursday.

Last month, the American Meteorological Society published a report announcing that 2014 had been the warmest year on record. Researchers stressed that several indicators of climate change, such as rising land and ocean temperatures, sea levels and greenhouses, set new records last year, confirming that the planet is gradually getting warmer.

Scientists said man-made climate change and a powerful El Niño are the main drivers behind this year’s soaring temperatures. El Niño occurs when winds shift and warm the Pacific Ocean’s water, leading to weather changes worldwide.

This year, the world’s oceans were the warmest they have ever been in July. The average global sea surface temperature rose to 1.35 degrees higher than the 20th century average, surpassing last July’s record and making it the highest known of any month to date. 

Records broke across much of Europe and the Middle East this year, with Austria witnessing its hottest July since national records began in 1767, the report reads. Two significant heat waves caused last month’s average temperature to rise 5 degrees higher than the 20th century average.

Some parts of southern Britain saw scorching heat in early July, marking the highest temperature recorded in the country since August 2003.

On July 31, 2015, the Middle East witnessed one of the most extreme heat indices (or “feels like” temperatures) ever recorded when the heat index in the Iranian city of Bandar Mahshahr reached 165 degrees Fahrenheit. The previous highest heat index record took place in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia in July 2003.

"Now that we are fairly certain that 2015 will be the warmest year on record, it is time to start looking at what are the impacts of that? What does that mean for people on the ground?" Mr. Crouch said.

In the US, one notable consequence of global warming is severe drought conditions. According to NOAA, almost one-third of the country (29.3 percent) is suffering drought conditions, a 3.5 percent increase over the last month and a half.

Scientists from the US Drought Monitor said 99 percent of California was in drought last month, as downtown Los Angeles completed its driest four-year period on record since the latest one in the city occurred between 1947-1951.

As of last week, the state has been battling 16 active wildfires with some 11,000 firefighters on the ground.

"The records are getting attention but I worry the public will grow weary of reports of new records each month," Marshall Shepherd, University of Georgia climate scientist, told the AP.

"I am more concerned about how the Earth is starting to respond to the changes and the implications for my children."

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