Heat waves broke temperature records around the world this past summer, but it will still be one of the coolest summers of the next few decades
Extreme heat has been a constant in the news this past summer: In July a punishing heat wave in Europe pushed temperatures across parts of the U.K. above 104 degrees Fahrenheit (40 degrees Celsius) for the first time in history. That same month was viciously hot across China, including in Shanghai—home to 26 million people—which tied its highest-ever July reading of 105.6 degrees F (40.9 degrees C). And even before the summer officially began, searing heat settled over the U.S. South in May. Amarillo, Tex., recorded its earliest day with temperatures topping 100 degrees F (37.8 degrees C), and Abilene, Tex., endured 14 straight days of 100 degrees F or higher, doubling its previous streak.
Those were just a few of the events that contributed to the Northern Hemisphere’s land areas experiencing their second-warmest June and third-warmest July on record, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. But temperatures that make big news today may seem ho-hum—even relatively cool—within a couple of decades, as the continued burning of fossil fuels pushes baseline temperatures ever higher. Heat waves are also becoming longer and more frequent. Not every summer will be hotter than the one just before it, of course, but global warming means that the heat records set today will eventually fall down the charts. As U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo said during the July launch of Heat.gov, a government website for heat information, “The reality is, given the scientific predictions, this summer—with its oppressive and widespread heat waves—is likely to be one of the coolest summers of the rest of our lives.”