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July 2023 set to break 100-year heat record: top NASA expert

A San Bernardino County firefighter wipes his head as the Oak Fire burns near Fontana, California. AFP/File

July 2023 is projected to be the hottest month in “hundreds, if not thousands, of years,” according to top NASA climatologist Gavin Schmidt.

The dire warning comes as a relentless heatwave engulfs large parts of the planet, raising concerns about the intensifying climate crisis.

Gavin Schmidt, the director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, issued a stark message during a meeting at NASA’s Washington headquarters. He asserted that the ongoing heatwave, particularly affecting swathes of the US South, could propel July 2023 to become the world’s hottest month on record.

“We are seeing unprecedented changes all over the world — the heatwaves that we’re seeing in the US in Europe and in China are demolishing records, left, right, and center,” Schmidt asserted.

The record-breaking heat has already resulted in daily temperature records being shattered, as reported by tools used by the European Union and the University of Maine. The situation is exacerbated by a heatwave-induced disaster, with deadly floods ravaging New England, Canadian wildfire smoke choking US cities, and tens of millions of people facing heat advisories.

Scientists and experts gathered at the meeting firmly linked these extreme weather events to human-induced greenhouse gas emissions. Kate Calvin, NASA’s chief scientist and senior climate adviser, stressed, “What we know from science is that human activity and principally greenhouse gas emissions are unavoidably causing the warming that we’re seeing on our planet.”

NASA’s predictions for 2023 raise concerns that this year may break records as the hottest year ever recorded. Schmidt’s calculations estimate a 50% chance of setting that record, with other models placing the likelihood as high as 80%.

Furthermore, Schmidt warned that the following year, 2024, could be even hotter than 2023. The looming El Niño weather pattern, notorious for boosting global temperatures, is expected to peak toward the end of this year, likely leading to an escalation in the Earth’s temperature.

In response to the escalating climate crisis, NASA has implemented various climate-focused initiatives to aid in mitigating its effects and preparing for future challenges. The Earth Information Center, which provides real-time access to climate data from NASA’s 25 satellites, is one of these crucial projects.

NASA administrators and experts also stressed the importance of making scientific information accessible to the public, empowering individuals, and global leaders to make informed decisions to combat climate change.

However, there are concerns about funding cuts for climate-related projects, including some at NASA. The agency remains dedicated to accelerating scientific discovery and leveraging research for climate preparedness.

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