On a week where global temperatures broke record after record, much of United States wasn’t all that hot.
The Earth as a whole, however, was. Most days broke unofficial temperature records that experts have been tracking over decades. And there’s some who believe this week’s records would hold up if the data went back further — Possibly thousands of years into the past.
Although there’s some legitimate scientific questions surrounding the unofficial records, scientists say climate change is dramatically reshaping the world we live in and expect records to keep falling. The natural El Niño climate pattern also plays a major role in the warmth.
But for many people in the USA, the global headlines likely felt disconnected from their experience this week.
National Weather Service Data shows the nation was warm, but not scalding, over the past few days. A few areas saw high heat, but much of the country was just a few degrees above average. About a dozen states had regions of below average temperatures.
But the global heat records are another reminder of how vast and interconnected the Earth is as climate change effects pile up. Here’s what to know:
It was unusually hot in many places on Earth this week
Data from the University of Maine’s Climate Reanalyzer, a tool that uses satellite data and computer simulations to measure the world’s condition, shows the United States was not driving this week’s global heat records.
Here’s a few locations where high temperatures bumped up the global average, according to Thursday data, which uses temperatures from 1979-2000 as a baseline:
- Antarctica: Vast stretches of the southernmost continent were about 18 degrees Fahrenheit or more above average.
- Russia: Much of the massive country was at least 5 degrees above average, with some stretches being far hotter.
- Greenland: A concentrated area of heat over the world’s largest island includes temperatures roughly 15 degrees above average.
- The oceans: The water temperature is unusually high in much of the world’s oceans — and air temperatures are also above average over the vast majority of the Atlantic and most of the Pacific.
Other hot spots included Jingxing, China, which checked in almost 110 degrees Fahrenheit and Adrar, Algeria, where the temperature never got below 103.3 degrees, even at night when it is supposed to cool.
How hot was it?
About 63 degrees on average across the globe. That’s the unofficial record set Thursday and it’s nearly 2 degrees warmer than the average temperature.
If that doesn’t sound very hot, you’re right. But keep in mind that number averages temperatures from all over the Earth. And when graphed against decades of data, it soars above the relatively predictable slope of temperatures.
Heat coming for Southwest US
Even though heat was mostly in check this week in the U.S., the summer is still expected to be unusually hot in most of the nation.
The National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center in mid-June said almost the whole country was trending toward above average temperatures.
In the short-term, millions of people in the Southwest were alerted to upcoming heat danger on Friday. This included normally broiling Phoenix, Arizona, where next week’s heat wave could be record-breaking, potentially rivaling “some of the worst heat waves this area has ever seen,” the National Weather Service said.
Temperatures are forecast to approach 118 degrees and could be even a few degrees hotter. “From next Tuesday through the rest of the week, temperatures across the region may be some of the hottest we have ever seen,” the weather service said. The all-time record high temperature in Phoenix is 122 degrees.
Climate and weather aren’t the same
Regardless of how hot it seemed in your neighborhood this week, that weather tells you very little about the overall state of the climate.
Weather is what you see outside the window. Climate is what occurs in an area over years or decades. Climate change is the difference seen in long-term trends in air, water and ocean temperatures and longer-term weather patterns.
Global records like the ones recorded this week are exactly what climate scientists would expect in a warming world, but the real proof of climate change has been thoroughly documented by scientists and government agencies for years.
Contributing: Doyle Rice and Dinah Voyles Pulver; The Associated Press