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‘Scorcher’ Summer Set to Make 2022 the Fifth-Warmest Year on Record

This story includes details on the impacts of climate change that may be difficult for some readers. If you are feeling overwhelmed by this crisis situation here is a list of resources on how to cope with fears and feelings about the scope and pace of the climate crisis.

Even with La Niña’s cooling effect on the tropical Pacific, 2022 is set to be the fifth warmest year on record after a “scorcher” summer brought record-breaking heat across the northern hemisphere, especially in continental Europe, the United Kingdom, China, and parts of the United States.

“Depending on how temperatures develop in the remaining six months of the year,” 2022 is “likely be the fifth-warmest year on record in most datasets, though it could be as high as the second or as low as the eighth,” reports Carbon Brief, in its second State of the Climate projection for 2022.

What is certain is the first six months of 2022 were very warm, indeed. Caron Brief writes that June 2022 “was around 1.8°C warmer than pre-industrial (1850-1899) temperatures for the month, with the vast majority of that warming occurring over the past few decades.” “June land temperatures have risen by more than 1.5°C since the early 1980s.”

And July has only stoked the furnace: “The UK smashed its prior all-time high temperature record by 1.6°C, reaching 40.3°C,” while across most of Europe, temperatures reached between 40°C and 43°C, with Hamburg passing 40°C for the first time.

The month was also searingly hot in China, where temperatures breached 40°C in much of the Yangtze River basin. Carbon Brief notes the rare issuance of a “red alert” warning in Shanghai, adding that “only 17 red alerts have been issued since 1873, with three of those issued so far this summer.”

The U.S. has likewise broiled: on July 21 alone, 60 million Americans in at least 16 states experienced temperatures above 38°C, and more than 100 million people were under heat alerts.

The ferocious heat of summer was preceded by a particularly savage spring in both India and Pakistan, which “experienced a heat wave remarkable both in its severity and its persistence,” the analysis states. “High temperatures lasted from March through May and broke many all-time high daily records in both countries.”

Citing research by the World Weather Attribution group, Carbon Brief says climate change made that heat wave “at least 30 times more likely” to occur.

The latest climate projections also touch on the condition of polar ice. “Antarctic sea ice has been at record low levels for the first quarter of the year, as well as nearly all the month of July, while Arctic sea ice extent has tracked the low end of the historical [1979-2010] range.” 

The experience of all this searing heat, and melting ice, occurred even though “global temperatures are being pushed down due to a persistent ‘double-dip’ La Niña event that has brought cooler ocean waters to the surface in the tropical Pacific.”

Looking back in order to look ahead, Carbon Brief writes that “while it seems very unlikely that 2022 will be a record warm year for the world as a whole, it still may have many more regional climate extremes in store.” While “not every year will set a new record,” the news story adds, “the long-term warming over the past few decades is unmistakable and is being driven by human emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.”