Climate: 10 records broken in July-August 2023

“The era of global warming has ended, the era of global boiling has arrived,” declared UN Chief António Guterres on 27 July. And with good reason: a number of climate-related records were broken in July and August 2023.  

The extremes reached are becoming “the new normal“, according to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), which points to human-induced climate change due to greenhouse gas emissions as the main driver.  


1 – July 2023, the hottest month on Earth “ever recorded in human history” 

These are the stark findings of WMO and the European Commission’s Copernicus Climate Change Service, with an average temperature of 16.95°C in July. This is the highest level “ever recorded in human history”, according to the head of the UN. The extreme heat experienced by millions of people in July is simply “the harsh reality of climate change and a foretaste of the future,” warned Petteri Taalas, WMO Secretary-General.  


2 – Greece: a 17-day heatwave in July 

An exceptionally long heatwave hit the country for more than two weeks at the end of July, according to the Athens Institute for Environmental Research (IERSD). With temperatures at times exceeding 45°C, forest fires multiplied, leading to the biggest evacuation operation ever carried out in Greece due to the climate: 30,000 people on the island of Rhodes, starting on 22 July, then on the islands of Evia and Corfu in August.   

Heatwaves in Europe are now a public health issue. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), they caused more than 60,000 deaths in Europe in 2022. This figure could rise to 120,000 deaths a year in the European region by 2050. 


3 – Record 31-day heatwave in Phoenix, USA 

Over 43.3°C for a month… In July, the 1.6 million inhabitants of Phoenix, the capital of Arizona, endured an ordeal unprecedented since it experienced a drought in 1974. Asphalt on the roads heated to 66°C and the temperature of human bodies outside rose to 41°C, requiring many people to be hospitalised.  


4 – Oceans: 20.96°C on 4 August, a world surface temperature record 

Back in June, the EU’s climate monitoring service Copernicus announced that the north Atlantic Ocean, and in particular the north-eastern Atlantic Ocean, were unusually warm 

The ocean is hotter than ever,” announced the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). In Florida, the water reached 38°C and in the Mediterranean, an absolute record of 28.7°C in July.  


5 – Torrential rain in Beijing  

744.8 millimetres (74.48 cm) of rain fell in Beijing on 7 August, the highest level since weather records began in 1883. According to Chinese authorities, the floods killed 33 people, including five rescue workers, and left 18 others missing. More than 59,000 homes collapsed and 150,000 others were damaged.  

Asia, the world’s largest continent, is warming faster than the global average – almost twice as much between 1991 and 2022 as between 1961 and 1990, according to the latest WMO report on the state of the climate in Asia in 2022.  


6 – Morocco breaks the 50°C barrier for the first time   

Agadir’s weather station recorded a temperature of 50.4°C in Agadir on 11 August. This record is far from being an isolated one: Türkiye recorded a temperature of 49.5°C for the first time on 15 August, and the mercury climbed to 52.2°C in Xinjiang province on 16 July, a new record in China.   


7 – The town of Lahaina nearly wiped off the map in Hawaii 

A forest fire aggravated by the weather claimed more than 110 lives in the American archipelago of Hawaii, and on 10 August almost wiped out the town of Lahaina, population 13,000, on the island of Maui. Once again, climatic conditions were to blame. A drought encouraged the fire, while Hurricane Dora, which did not make landfall in Hawaii, strengthened the winds which spread the flames onto the small port city.  


8 – Canada: a record number of “mega-fires” and surface areas burnt  

The blazes, which have been active in Canada since April, caused peaks in atmospheric pollution and darkened the skies over Montreal and New York spectacularly at the beginning of June.  

As of 17 August, 600 active fires were still out of control, and no fewer than 5,738 blazes had already burnt 13.7 million hectares since the start of the year: that’s more than 1% of the country, an area larger than Portugal and roughly the size of Greece. Almost twice as much land has been burnt as the previous record, in 1989. Even the northern regions of the country, close to the Arctic Circle, have been affected: on 16 August, an evacuation order was issued to the 20,000 residents of Yellowknife, the capital of the Northwest Territories, in the face of an approaching fire.    

Fires fuel the vicious circle of global warming: huge quantities of carbon are released into the atmosphere, while vegetation capable of absorbing carbon emissions is devastated.  


9 – The “Freezing point” at a record altitude of 5,298 metres in Switzerland 

The altitude at which freezing occurs was registered at a record 5,298 metres on 21 August by Météo Suisse, 115 metres higher than in 2022. This is much higher than Europe’s highest peak, Mont Blanc, which stands at 4,808 metres.  

“Another blow for glaciers that have already strongly suffered this year,” said Matthias Huss, head of the Swiss Glacier Monitoring Network and a member of the community in charge of WMO‘s Global Cryosphere Watch community. 


10 – 41.8°C in the middle of winter in Brazil  

The northern hemisphere is not the only one to be affected by the heat: in August, Brazil saw a record high of 41.8°C in Cuiabá, in the centre-west, in the middle of winter. The heatwave hit a large part of the country, driving thousands of Rio residents to the beaches.  

The country also had its hottest July on record, with an average of 23°C. The probable cause, according to climatologists: climate change and the El Niño phenomenon, characterised by abnormally high water temperatures in the eastern part of the South Pacific Ocean. 


These 10 records are certainly not the only extreme weather events to have hit the world in July and August 2023. Cyprus was hit by wildfires, for example, and Slovenia experienced the “worst flood situation recorded in the country in recent history”, according to authorities.  

All these alarming events in the run up to the Climate Change Conference (COP 28), to be held in Dubai from 30 November to 12 December 2023, will fuel the debate on the measures to be taken and the possible solutions.  



WMO: 2023 off to warm start, breaking records in Europe 

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