July 2023 is on track to become the hottest month in centuries, according to a warning from top NASA climatologist Gavin Schmidt of the Goddard Institute for Space Studies.
A relentless heatwave is sweeping large parts of the planet, shattering temperature records and raising concerns about the intensifying climate crisis.
Schmidt’s alarming projection comes as the world faces extreme weather events, with deadly floods hitting New England and Canadian wildfires engulfing cities in smoke. Tens of millions of people across the US south and west are under heat advisories, highlighting the urgency of climate action.
During a meeting at NASA’s Washington headquarters, agency climate experts and leaders, including Nasa administrator Bill Nelson and chief scientist and senior climate adviser Kate Calvin, discussed the unprecedented changes taking place globally. Schmidt noted, “We are seeing unprecedented changes all over the world,” pointing out the rising heatwaves occurring in the US, Europe, and China, which are demolishing temperature records left and right.
He further explained that the increasing temperatures are not surprising to scientists, as there has been a steady rise over the past four decades. Earth recently experienced its hottest June on record, fueling concerns about the likelihood of 2023 becoming the hottest year overall. While Schmidt estimated a 50% chance of this occurrence, other models have raised it as high as 80%.
Schmidt and other experts at the meeting underscored the direct link between these extreme changes and greenhouse gas emissions, although they refrained from specifically attributing them to fossil fuels. “What we know from science is that human activity and principally greenhouse gas emissions are unavoidably causing the warming that we’re seeing on our planet,” said Calvin. The urgent need for climate preparedness was stressed, as the impacts of climate change continue to affect people and ecosystems globally.
Looking forward, Schmidt’s projections for 2024 are even more concerning. He predicts that an El Niño weather pattern, known to boost global temperatures, will likely peak toward the end of 2023, making 2024 even hotter. The last major El Niño event from 2014 to 2016 led to successive years breaking global temperature records, culminating in 2016 being the hottest year ever recorded.
In response to the escalating climate crisis, NASA highlighted several climate-focused initiatives, including the Earth Information Center, which provides real-time climate data from the agency’s satellites. The agency aims to help governments mitigate the crisis and prepare for its effects through various projects tracking environmental changes and researching lower-carbon forms of air travel.
As the world grapples with this dire warning, some rightwing lawmakers are attempting to curtail funding for climate-related projects, including those at NASA. However, the agency’s earth science division director, Karen St Germain, stressed that the goal is not only scientific discovery but also ensuring that new research enhances climate preparedness and benefits people globally.