July 2021: The Hottest Month Ever Recorded

July 2021: The Hottest Month Ever Recorded

July 2021 was the hottest month in 142 years of record-keeping, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The month was 1.67 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than the 20th-century average, and what’s more: the last seven Julys have been the seven hottest Julys on record. "In this case, first place is the worst place to be," said NOAA Administrator Rick Spinrad. "This new record adds to the disturbing and disruptive path that climate change has set for the globe."

Why This Matters

Experts say that this isn't an anomaly, it's a trend -- and one that will continue as climate change rages across the world. In the US, this trend has led to some of the largest wildfires on record, surges of heat-related deaths, and water resources plummeting. The US and other signatories of the Paris Agreement have pledged to reach net-zero emissions by 2050, but experts say it's becoming clear that we don't have that long. Scientists now say that these record-breaking temperatures and the IPCC's recent report should push all nations to increase their climate commitments before the COP26 conference in Glasgow this November.

NOAA and NCEI: A map of the world plotted with some of the most significant climate events that occurred during July 2021, August 13, 2021.

TED: Johan Rockström, October 15, 2020.

Up North

The Northern Hemisphere's brutal summer overtook the Southern Hemisphere's winter and raised average global temperatures during July to 62.07 degrees Fahrenheit, beating the previous record set in 2016. "This is climate change," said Pennsylvania State University climate scientist, Michael Mann. "It is an exclamation mark on a summer of unprecedented heat, drought, wildfires, and flooding."

Experts say that a phenomenon called Arctic Oscillation, a weather pattern associated with warming, helped to create the sizzling summer. Other similar weather systems have also influenced this year's temperatures; experts say that the cooling La Niña weather pattern brought lower temperatures to early 2021. This is most likely why despite extreme temperatures in June and July, 2021 is only the sixth hottest year on record so far.

Still, University of Illinois meteorology professor Donald Wuebbles warns that the global average temperature is trending up, despite warming and cooling weather patterns. "One month by itself does not say much, but that this was a La Niña year, and we still had the warmest temperatures on record … fits with the pattern of what we have been seeing for most of the last decade now," he said.

NOAA: Departure of temperature from average for July 2021, the warmest July for the globe since record keeping began in 1880. Record-warm July temperatures were observed across parts of western North America, the Atlantic Ocean, Europe, northern Africa, southern Asia, and small areas across the southern Pacific and Indian oceans. (August 8, 2021 - Image credit: NOAA/NCEI.)

NASA: 2020 Tied for Hottest Year on Record, January 2014, 2021.