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June 2023 was the hottest ever, with more heat records to come

According to data released by multiple agencies – including NASA’s Global Institute for Space Studies, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Berkeley Earth, and the European Center for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) – June 2023 was the hottest June on record, topping the previous record from 2020 by 0.13 degrees Celsius. 

June’s global average (16.55 degrees Celsius) was 1.05 degrees Celsius above the 20th century average, marking the first time that a summer month was more than a degree above the normal range, and leading experts worldwide to predict that 2023 will most likely be the hottest year on record.

This worrisome situation is mainly caused by a combination of rapid climate change and the emergence of El Niño, a recurrent phenomenon occurring in the Pacific Ocean and characterized by unusually warm ocean temperatures in the equatorial region.

“The recent record temperatures, as well as extreme fires, pollution, and flooding we are seeing this year are what we expect to see in a warmer climate,” said Natalie Mahowald, a climate scientist at Cornell University. “We are just getting a small taste for the types of impacts that we expect to worsen under climate change.”

Multiple factors

While anthropogenic climate change undoubtedly played a major role in this unprecedented rise in temperatures over both land and oceans, the intensifying El Niño pattern has clearly started to contribute to widespread warming too, although its full impact will probably be seen only next year. 

Moreover, another major factor leading to record-breaking heat was the exceptional, widespread warming of the eastern and tropical North Atlantic Ocean, caused by weaker than usual subtropical high pressure that led to lighter trade winds which did not allow the cooler water to move up to the surface of the tropical North Atlantic Basin. 

In addition, there was less airborne dust from the Sahara Desert moving westward over the tropical Atlantic in June. Since dust usually reflects part of the Sun’s energy, June’s anomalously low amount of dust-laden air has likely contributed to warmer than average water in the tropical North Atlantic. 

Global warming impacts

However, as Berkeley Earth climate scientist Zeke Hausfather argues, while El Niño and its cooling counterpart La Niña, along other non-anthropogenic factors, “have a big impact on year-to-year temperatures, their effects are much smaller over the long run than human-caused warming.”

“Back in 1998, the world had a super El Niño event with record global temperatures; today the temperatures of 1998 would be an unusually cool year. Human-driven climate change adds a permanent super El Niño worth of heat to the atmosphere every decade.”

“Until we stop burning fossil fuels, this will only get worse. Heat records will keep getting broken, people and ecosystems are already in many cases beyond what they are able to deal with,” concluded Friederike Otto, a climate scientist at the Imperial College London.

More about climate change 

Climate change refers to the long-term alteration of temperature and typical weather patterns in a place. Climate change could refer to a particular location or the planet as a whole. 

Climate change is a natural process, but in recent years, there’s strong consensus among scientists that human activities are exacerbating it at an alarming rate.

Anthropogenic factors

Industrial activities and deforestation have rapidly increased the concentration of greenhouse gases in the Earth’s atmosphere. These gases include carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), and nitrous oxide (N2O), which trap heat from the sun and cause global warming. This human-caused acceleration of greenhouse gas emissions is often referred to as the enhanced greenhouse effect.

Global warming

This refers to the long-term increase in Earth’s average temperature. While weather can vary greatly in different regions and during different seasons, global warming shows a trend of increasing temperatures over decades or more. The past five years have been the warmest on record since the late 19th century.


The impacts of climate change are vast and potentially catastrophic. These include increased frequency and severity of weather events such as floods, droughts, and storms; sea-level rise; shifts in ecosystems and wildlife populations; increased heat-related illnesses and diseases; and economic consequences.

Mitigation and adaptation

Mitigation strategies are efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions or enhance the sinks that absorb these gases. This could involve switching to renewable energy sources, improving energy efficiency, or protecting and restoring forests. 

Adaptation refers to adjustments in systems in response to climate change and its effects, which could include building flood defenses, developing drought-tolerant crops, or improving infrastructure to withstand extreme weather.

International cooperation

Climate change is a global problem that requires a global solution. Efforts to address climate change require international cooperation, as seen in agreements like the Paris Agreement, where nations pledge to limit global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius, and aim for 1.5 degrees Celsius, compared to pre-industrial levels.


By Andrei Ionescu, Staff Writer

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