What’s going on here?
The first week of July this year saw record breaking global average temperatures. On Monday 3rd July a record high temperature of 17.01 degrees celsius was reached. This record was immediately broken on Tuesday 4th and Wednesday 5th ofJuly with temperatures of 17.18 degrees.
What does this mean?
These temperatures may not seem very high, but this is the global average, not the highest temperature anywhere on earth. It is calculated by taking the average temperature across the land and the ocean around the world. Daily temperatures are then averaged over months to calculate temperature trends over time. It is these average temperatures that are referred to in the goal to stay below 1.5 degrees of warming.
These record breaking temperatures come after the UN reported in May that we are likely to breach the 1.5 degree threshold by 2027. This year has also seen record high ocean temperatures (known as marine heatwaves), with surface temperatures up to 5 degrees higher than normal in some places. Increased ocean temperatures can have serious impacts on marine life, such as causing coral bleaching.
Why should we care?
Some of the current extreme temperatures may be due to natural cycles of warming such as El Niño (read a great explainer of El Niño here). However, human-driven climate change is the main driver of increasing global temperatures, and the current extreme highs are an indication of how severe the climate crisis is. High average global temperatures often reflect abnormally high temperatures in the Arctic and in Antarctica. This is particularly worrying as it may increase the rate of melting ice, leading to sea level rise.
Current climate pledges are predicted to limit warming to around 2.5 degrees, so “an urgent system-wide transformation” is needed to meet the 1.5 degree threshold set by the UN.