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Earth just experienced one of its warmest summers on record

Hot weather baked the globe, with Europe and China both recording their warmest meteorological summers

A visitor at Zabriskie Point in Death Valley, California, US, on Saturday, Sept. 3, 2022. An unforgiving heat wave smothered Southern California in September. (Eric Thayer/Bloomberg)
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Summer 2022 — a season marked again by historic heat waves, widespread drought and torrential rains — ranks among the hottest on record, according to data from NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

NASA data indicate June through August tied 2020 for the warmest summer worldwide in records dating back to 1880. Summer in the Northern Hemisphere also tied 2019 for the warmest on record.

NOAA data indicate the meteorological summer tied for the fifth warmest worldwide in 143 years of records, and the Northern Hemisphere experienced its second-warmest summer on record.

Maps show where extreme heat shattered 7,000 records this summer

The disparity between the two data sets is explained by how each treats temperatures in the polar regions of the globe. NASA’s data set has more inputs from the Arctic and Antarctic regions, an area of the planet that is warming at a faster rate than other parts of the globe.

Regardless, both sets of data show that this summer was abnormally warm and that the world has warmed dramatically over the past century, especially since 1980. Summers have warmed by 0.47 degrees Fahrenheit (0.26 degrees Celsius) per decade since 1980.

“This is a remarkable testament to the persistence of ongoing global warming,” tweeted climate scientist Gavin Schmidt, who said August ranked as the warmest on record in North America.

Both NASA and NOAA affirm 2022 will almost assuredly rank in the top 10 warmest years on record. 2022 is also likely to be the eighth year in a row to be 2 degrees Fahrenheit (1 degree Celsius) warmer than the late 19th century.

Highlights from June and July

The summer started out hot and hardly abated. NASA data indicated June 2022 tied for the hottest June on record, July tied for the third warmest and August ranked as the second warmest globally. NOAA said June, July and August, individually and collectively, were the sixth warmest on record.

All five of the warmest worldwide June-August periods have occurred since 2015, a sign of how the world’s warming continues to accelerate.

June consisted of major heat spells, many broken monthly records and extreme weather disasters around the world. Heavy rain and melted snowpack caused historic flooding and evacuations around Yellowstone National Park and nearby towns.

Mapping this summer’s extreme divide in rain and drought

A heat wave swept across Japan in the middle of its rainy season, marking the worst streak of hot weather in June since 1875. Meanwhile, record rainfall fell across southern China and caused severe flooding and evacuations. The Norwegian city of Tromsø, located above the Arctic Circle, set a temperature record for the month.

July was marked by record heat waves in Europe. London hit 104 degrees, setting an all-time national temperature record. France, Germany, Spain, Ireland also set monthly records. The heat wave caused widespread fires and the worst glacier melt in the Alps, one of which triggered a fatal avalanche in Italy.

Most of the United States experienced above-normal to record-warm temperatures in July as well. Texas experienced its hottest July on record. At the end of the month, a prolonged heat wave in Northern California and the Pacific Northwest set records for the longest warm streaks in Portland and Seattle. The heat ignited wildfires, including the McKinney Fire that grew into California’s largest and deadliest fire of the year to date.

Then August continued to scorch.

An unusually warm August

August 2022 was the hottest August recorded in North America and Europe and the second warmest August globally.

By August, around half of Europe was under drought warnings — the continent’s worst drought in at least 500 years. August also brought more intense heat to parts of the United States, especially in parts of the West.

China saw its warmest August and its warmest summer on record. The country battled a record-breaking heat wave and drought this summer, shrinking Poyang Lake, usually the largest freshwater body in the country, by more than two-thirds.

China’s summer heat wave is breaking all records

The heat was widespread across the globe. New Zealand saw its second warmest August on record, while Belgium recorded its hottest August ever, with the European nation’s data going back to 1833.

In Brazil, warmer-than-average temperatures fueled an active wildfire season in the Amazon. More than 33,000 blazes were detected in August, the most since 2010.

The heat also made August a bad month for sea ice — with the world seeing its fifth-lowest August sea ice extent on record.

In Antarctica, the sea ice extent fell to 4.2 percent below the August average, a record for the month. This is the third month in a row that Antarctica has seen its monthly record fall. In the Arctic, the August 2022 sea ice extent was a whopping 16.2 percent below the 1981-2010 average — the 13th-smallest on record.

Precipitation-wise, the headline of the month was a wetter-than-normal monsoon season that brought intense rainfall to Pakistan. Much of the lower-lying plains in southern Pakistan were covered by floodwaters in August, with the floods there killing nearly 1,500 people.

See the scale of Pakistan’s flooding in maps, photos and videos

Across the globe, precipitation totals varied widely. Wetter-than-normal weather was observed not only in Pakistan but also parts of the southwest United States, northern Japan and western India.

Drier than normal weather was seen in the western United States, western Europe and southeast Asia. These dry conditions caused farmers to struggle to grow crops, led to difficulties in generating hydropower and fueled rapidly growing wildfires.

The summer fits in with a generally warmer year overall. So far, the world has seen above-average temperatures year-to-date. Per NOAA’s data, 2022 has been the sixth-warmest year on record from January through August, with a global average temperature 1.55 degrees higher than the 20th-century average.

Of the annual records, 2016 remains the warmest, but there is a less than 0.1 percent chance that 2022 manages to exceed that warmth.

Yet, all of the 10 warmest years on record have occurred since 2010. If the heat keeps up, 2022 is likely to enter the top 10 as well.

More on climate change

Understanding our climate: Global warming is a real phenomenon, and weather disasters are undeniably linked to it. As temperatures rise, heat waves are more often sweeping the globe — and parts of the world are becoming too hot to survive.

What can be done? The Post is tracking a variety of climate solutions, as well as the Biden administration’s actions on environmental issues. It can feel overwhelming facing the impacts of climate change, but there are ways to cope with climate anxiety.

Inventive solutions: Some people have built off-the-grid homes from trash to stand up to a changing climate. As seas rise, others are exploring how to harness marine energy.

What about your role in climate change? Our climate coach Michael J. Coren is answering questions about environmental choices in our everyday lives. Submit yours here. You can also sign up for our Climate Coach newsletter.