NASA says July was the hottest month on record since 1880

“The situation we are witnessing now is the demonstration that climate change is out of control.”
Shubhangi Dua
This map shows global temperature anomalies for July 2023 according to the GISTEMP analysis
This map shows global temperature anomalies for July 2023 according to the GISTEMP analysis. Temperature anomalies reflect how July 2023 compared to the average July temperature from 1951-1980.

NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies 

From extreme heatwaves across the US to wildfires in Southern Europe, July was packed with frightening reminders of what scientists have warned about for decades – the current climatic crises.

Earlier today (August 15), NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) declared July 2023 as the hottest month on record since 1880. 

Hottest month on record

According to GISS, last month, the temperature was 0.43 degrees Fahrenheit (0.24 degrees Celsius) warmer than any other July in NASA’s record, and it was 2.1 Fahrenheit (1.18 Celsius) warmer than the average July between 1951 and 1980. 

NASA says July was the hottest month on record since 1880
This chart shows global temperature anomalies for every July since the 1880s, based on NASA's GISTEMP analysis. Anomalies reflect how much the global temperature was above or below the 1951-1980 norm for July.

The space study institutes' fundamental focus was researching the long-term temperature changes over many decades and a fixed base period yields consistent anomalies over time. They considered temperature "normals" as consistent anomalies observed over approximately 30 years.

Bill Nelson, NASA administrator, confirmed that data exhibited what billions worldwide felt. He said, “Temperatures in July 2023 made it the hottest month on record. In every corner of the country, Americans are right now experiencing firsthand the effects of the climate crisis, underscoring the urgency of President Biden’s historic climate agenda.” 

“The science is clear. We must act now to protect our communities and planet; it’s the only one we have,” Nelson added.

Existential threat

Alluding to President Biden’s address to the global climatic situation, Ali Zaidi, White House National Climate Advisor, said: “Since day one, President Biden has treated the climate crisis as the existential threat of our time.”

António Guterres, UN Secretary-General, also voiced that the climate crisis was beyond management. He stated, “The situation we are witnessing now is the demonstration that climate change is out of control.”

Considering the consequences of climate change, including record-high temperatures, wildfires, and floods, NASA has addressed the urgency of climate leadership. 

In a statement, NASA expressed: “From securing the Inflation Reduction Act, the largest climate investment in history, to invoking the Defense Production Act to supercharge domestic clean energy manufacturing, to strengthening climate resilience in communities nationwide, President Biden is delivering on the most ambitious climate agenda in history.”

Affected regions

NASA’s data also documented other regions experiencing severely hot temperatures, including parts of South America, North Africa, North America, and the Antarctic Peninsula. Temperatures surged approximately 7.2°F (4°C) above the average.

This summer's heat waves have affected millions, causing hundreds of heat-related illnesses and deaths. Scientists have stated that the record-breaking heat is human-driven and principally due to greenhouse gas emissions. 

Five days ago, devastating wildfires spread throughout Hawaii, destroying communities in Maui County, including the historic town of Lahaina. The disaster has caused 99 deaths so far, according to The Guardian, and injured hundreds. The death toll is expected to rise further.

NASA reported that the five hottest Julys since 1880 have all happened in the past five years. Katherine Calvin, chief scientist and senior climate advisor at NASA Headquarters in Washington, stated: 

“Climate change is impacting people and ecosystems around the world, and we expect many of these impacts to escalate with continued warming. Our agency observes climate change, its impacts, and its drivers, like greenhouse gases, and we are committed to providing this information to help people plan for the future.”

Data collection

The data was driven from NASA’s many metrological stations and sea surface temperature data acquired by ship- and buoy-based instruments. 

The raw data was then analyzed using special techniques. These methods considered the fact that temperature stations are situated in different parts of the globe. They also accounted for the extra heat that cities can produce, which might make the temperature calculations inaccurate.

GISS Director Gavin Schmidt stated, “The science is clear this isn’t normal. Alarming warming around the world is driven primarily by human-caused greenhouse gas emissions. And that rise in average temperatures is fueling dangerous extreme heat that people are experiencing here at home and worldwide.”

While scientists already determined the emergence of El Niño in May 2023, NASA recently corroborated stating that warm ocean temperatures also contributed to July’s record-breaking warmth. 

NASA’s statement highlighted that phenomena such as El Niño or La Niña, which warm or cool the tropical Pacific Ocean, can contribute a small amount of year-to-year variability in global temperatures. 

“But these contributions are not typically felt when El Niño starts developing in the Northern Hemisphere summer. NASA expects to see the biggest impacts of El Niño in February, March, and April 2024.”

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