A massive heat dome was parked over Western Australia, with Onslow sitting directly underneath it. Temperatures were about 20 degrees Fahrenheit (11 degrees Celsius) above normal at the hottest time of year.
“Considering the increasing temperature trends over the past decades, it is less surprising that we see extreme temperatures like the one in Western Australia at the moment,” wrote Nina Ridder, researcher at the Centre of Excellence for Climate Extremes at the University of New South Wales at Sydney.
Western Australia is currently coming off its third-warmest December in 2021. Ridder said mean sea surface temperatures in northwest Western Australia have also been above average — about 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit (2 degrees Celsius) higher in December 2021 than average — and could have detrimental effects on marine ecosystems, such as inducing coral bleaching.
The extreme temperature arrives the same week that several of the world’s top climate research institutions announced that the past seven years have been the hottest in recorded history. In that time, temperature records have been broken across the world. The WMO has four ongoing investigations, having just completed another.
“Since the creation of the WMO World Archive of Weather and Climate Extremes in 2007, we have never had so many ongoing verification/evaluations as we currently do,” Randy Cerveny, who leads the World Meteorological Organization’s weather and climate extremes team, wrote in an email.
Here is a select list of verified and unverified national and international record-breaking temperatures (in recorded history) in the past two years:
- World’s hottest year at 1.08 degrees (0.6 degrees Celsius) warmer than 1981-2010 average: 2020 tied with 2016
- World’s hottest month at 1.67 degrees (0.93 degrees Celsius) above the 20th-century average: July 2021
- World’s highest (and North America’s highest) reliable temperature at 129.9 degrees (54.4 degrees Celsius), at least since 1931: Death Valley, Calif., Aug. 16, 2020, and July 9, 2021
- Arctic’s highest temperature at 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit(38 degrees Celsius): Verkhoyansk, Russia, June 20, 2020.
- Antarctica’s coldest season with an average of minus-78 degrees Fahrenheit (minus-61 Celsius): 2021
- Europe’s highest temperature at 119.8 degrees Fahrenheit (48.8 degrees Celsius): Syracuse, Italy, Aug. 11, 2021
- Canada’s highest temperature at 121 degrees Fahrenheit (49.6 degrees Celsius): Lytton, B.C., June 29, 2021
- Turkey’s highest temperature at 120.4 degrees Fahrenheit (49.1 degrees Celsius): Cizre, July 20, 2021
- Spain’s highest temperature at 117 degrees Fahrenheit (47.4 degrees Celsius): Montoro, Aug. 14, 2021
- Greece’s highest temperature at 115.3 degrees Fahrenheit (46.3 degrees Celsius): Makrakomi, Aug. 2, 2021
- Paraguay’s highest temperature at 113.9 degrees Fahrenheit (45.5 degrees Celsius): Pozo Hondo, Sept. 26, 2020
- Oman’s highest temperature at 124.9 degrees Fahrenheit (51.6 degrees Celsius): Joba, June 16, 2021
- United Arab Emirates tied highest temperature at 125.2 degrees Fahrenheit (51.8 degrees Celsius): Sweihan, June 6, 2021
- Iraq’s highest temperature at 125.2 degrees Fahrenheit (51.8 degrees Celsius): Baghdad, July 28, 2020
- Cuba’s highest temperature at 102.7 degrees Fahrenheit (39.3 degrees Celsius): Veguitas, Aug. 11, 2020
- Ghana’s highest temperature at 111.2 degrees Fahrenheit (44 degrees Celsius): Navrongo, April 6, 2020
- Lebanon’s highest temperature at 113.7 degrees Fahrenheit (45.4 degrees Celsius): Houche Al Oumara, July 27, 2020
- Contiguous United States’ warmest December with an average of 39.3 degrees Fahrenheit (4 degrees Celsius): 2021
According to climatologist Maximiliano Herrera, in all, 10 different countries tied or broke national heat records in 2021 (Morocco, Taiwan, Tunisia and Dominica, in addition to those listed above).
Outside of national or international records, unprecedented extremes are occurring in local communities and in smaller time scales, as well. Cerveny said local high temperatures are being “exceeded much more frequently than low-temperature records.”
Herrera documented 400 weather stations in communities or outposts worldwide that established all-time high temperatures in 2021.
“We are seeing more frequent extremes in temperature,” Cerveny wrote. “The climate that we have lived through over the past decades is changing and we must be aware of that — and realize those fundamental changes have consequences to our way of life.”