Receive free Climate change updates
We’ll send you a myFT Daily Digest email rounding up the latest Climate change news every morning.
The Earth reached its highest daily temperature since records began in 1979 for four consecutive days this week, unofficial data showed, as climate change and the El Niño phenomenon caused extreme weather around the world.
US government data compiled by the University of Maine showed average global temperature broke a record to reach 17.01C, before temperatures crested to a new high of 17.18C on Tuesday and Wednesday, and 17.23C on Thursday. The previous record was set on August 14, 2016.
The University of Maine’s Climate Reanalyzer tool uses satellite data and computer simulations to offer a real-time snapshot of global temperatures. However, the temperature readings are not formally approved by the US government’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association.
NOAA only tracks and validates global temperature records on a monthly and annual basis but not a daily basis, and said it could not confirm the conclusions by University of Maine scientists about a new global temperature record being set on July 3 and 4, 2023.
But it added: “We recognise that we are in a warm period due to climate change, and combined with El Niño and hot summer conditions, we’re seeing record warm surface temperatures being recorded at many locations across the globe.”
At the same time, scientists at the European observation agency, Copernicus Climate Change Service, officially confirmed that last month was the warmest June globally on record. Temperatures rose by a relatively large margin of 0.5C above the 1991-2020 average.
In June, meteorological bureaus around the world announced the return of El Niño, a phenomenon associated with warming across the Pacific Ocean, though scientists have questioned whether the pattern would have such an immediate impact on atmospheric temperatures.
The temperature readings come as oceans reach historically warm levels, and ice around Antarctica hits record lows for this time of year. The world’s oceans reached record high temperatures for two months running over April and May, according to NOAA.
Record June temperatures were registered across north-west Europe, while parts of the US, Mexico, Asia and eastern Australia were “significantly” warmer than usual, Copernicus said.
Antarctic sea ice reached its lowest extent for June since satellite observations began, it found. Sea surface temperatures globally were higher than any previous June on record, with warm sea surface temperatures recorded in the north Atlantic.
Carlo Buontempo, director of Copernicus, said the El Niño effect and climate change were combining to boost temperatures.
“Given the warming trend, what would have been an extreme but maybe not a record-breaking extreme becomes record-breaking because the entire climate system is much warmer than it was even 10 years ago,” said Buontempo.
“We haven’t seen anything like this in our history. And for me this is a tangible example of what it means to be working in uncharted territory. Climate change is not something that is going to happen in 20 or 30 years’ time, it is happening now.”
Scientists have separately warned that warming oceans were affecting the wave patterns of the jet stream, a band of fast-moving air high in the atmosphere.
This week from Beijing to Baghdad, swaths of Asia and the Middle East were afflicted with high temperatures.
Employers in Beijing on Thursday were ordered by the government to stop outdoor work after scorching summer heat in the Chinese capital was forecast to reach 40C.
A heatwave that has lasted several weeks in large areas prompted some local authorities to call for curbs to business and residential power use as demand for cooling surged in some areas, while parts of central China saw thousands of people displaced by flooding.
Weakening, slower moving and larger waves have also been trapping heat over pockets of the US. Last week more than 110mn Americans were coping with extreme heat, while at least 100 people are estimated to have died in Mexico where temperatures came close to 50C.