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The headlines of record-crushing heat in the Northern Hemisphere began in June and haven’t stopped midway through August. Scores of locations on every continent north of the equator have witnessed their hottest weather in recorded history.
The swelter has intensified raging wildfires in western North America, Scandinavia and Siberia, while leading to heat-related deaths in Japan and eastern Canada.
Even with the peak of summer having passed, several locations in western North America notched their highest temperatures on record last week. They included Calgary in western Canada and Glacier National Park in Montana, where the temperature touched the century mark for the first time in 70 years of records.
A weather station in Idaho soared to a torrid 119 degrees (48.3 Celsius) last week. While it requires verification, it would mark the state’s highest temperature ever measured.
Maps and charts really help tell the story of the incredible heat this summer and place it in historical perspective. Here are seven of the most compelling:
1. Record heat, day by day, May through July
The remarkable coverage of both record-challenging and record-breaking heat is shown in this animated map which illustrates how many locations around the planet were coping with exceptionally hot weather every single day.
Few areas were left untouched by the heat which spread around the planet. Some areas, like the western United States, Japan and Scandinavia, were hit repeatedly.
2. The hottest May-through-July on record in the Lower 48 states
The contiguous United States witnessed its hottest May on record, passing the previous mark set during the Dust Bowl. But it was July, which ranked 10th hottest, which delivered some of the most remarkable heat extremes.
“This was a heat wave on top of long-term warming,” tweeted Robert Rohde, a climate scientist at Berkeley Earth, a nonprofit group that analyzes temperatures. “However, if the recent rate of warming continues, then by 2040 a typical summer in Europe might be just as warm as 2018 has been.”
4. Scandinavia torched
The hottest weather ever recorded spread over large parts of Scandinavia. The heat was remarkable for its coverage, intensity and duration. Many areas saw temperatures exceed 90 degrees (32.2 degrees Celsius), compared with normal levels in the 70s, even locations more than 300 miles north of the Arctic Circle.
It was the third-warmest July on record for the planet, according to NASA, following 2016 and 2017, the two warmest.
“Since July is the warmest month of the year, the past July was one of the warmest recorded months ever,” tweeted climate scientist Stefan Rahmstorf. “Likely among the warmest months since the Eemian 120,000 years ago.”
During the exceptionally hot month, national heat records fell in Japan, South Korea, Algeria and Taiwan.
The viral tweet above, from Simon Lee, shows the stark difference in June temperatures around in the globe in 2018 vs. 1976. In half a person’s lifetime, the summer climate has changed profoundly.
“June 1976: the UK was one of the warmest places relative to normal across the globe, with most areas cooler than average,” tweeted Lee, who is a PhD student in meteorology in Britain. “June 2018: the UK was just another warm blob in a mostly warmer than normal world.”
Jason Samenow is The Washington Post’s weather editor and Capital Weather Gang's chief meteorologist. He earned a master's degree in atmospheric science and spent 10 years as a climate change science analyst for the U.S. government. He holds the Digital Seal of Approval from the National Weather Association. Follow