It's getting hot in here: Earth's record-breaking heatwave

As UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warns that "Climate breakdown has begun," urgent action is needed.

The Hottest August on Record

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warns, "Our planet has just endured a season of simmering -- the hottest summer on record. Climate breakdown has begun. Surging temperatures demand a surge in action. Leaders must turn up the heat now for climate solutions. We can still avoid the worst of climate chaos - and we don't have a moment to lose."

According to the Copernicus Climate Change Service ERA 5 dataset, August 2023 was the hottest August on record, surpassing all previous records by a significant margin. In fact, it was the second hottest month ever recorded, second only to July 2023. The average temperature for August 2023 was estimated to be around 1.5°C higher than the preindustrial average for the period between 1850 and 1900. This surge in temperatures emphasizes the urgency of addressing climate change.

The Second Warmest Year

The year 2023, from January to August, ranks as the second warmest year on record, trailing closely behind the scorching year of 2016, which was marked by a powerful El Niño event. The persistence of high temperatures and extreme conditions throughout the year highlights the alarming trend of global warming. It is clear that we are witnessing not only new extremes but also the long-lasting impacts of these record-breaking conditions on our planet and its inhabitants.

Unprecedented Sea Surface Temperatures

August 2023 witnessed the highest global monthly average sea surface temperatures ever recorded. The average temperature across all months reached a staggering 20.98°C, surpassing the previous record set in March 2016. This continuous rise in sea surface temperatures has far-reaching consequences for marine ecosystems, including coral reefs and marine life. The implications for the planet's climate system are profound and demand immediate attention.

Disturbing Arctic and Antarctic Trends

The Arctic and Antarctic regions are particularly vulnerable to the effects of global warming. In August 2023, the Antarctic sea ice extent remained at a record low for the time of year, with a monthly value 12% below the average. This negative anomaly is the largest observed for August since satellite observations began in the late 1970s. On the other hand, although the Arctic sea ice extent was 10% below average, it was still above the record minimum observed in August 2012.

WMO's Climate Monitoring Efforts

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) plays a crucial role in monitoring climate data and providing comprehensive reports on the state of the climate. It consolidates data from C3S and five other international datasets, including those from the Copernicus Climate Change Service, for its climate monitoring activities. The WMO's State of the Climate reports serve as a valuable resource for understanding the current climate crisis and formulating effective strategies to combat it.

Future Projections

A joint report by the WMO and the UK's Met Office in May highlighted the likelihood of future temperature increases. There is a 98% probability that at least one of the next five years will be the warmest on record, and a 66% chance of temporarily exceeding a 1.5°C increase above the preindustrial average for at least one of those years. This projection underscores the urgent need for sustained action to mitigate the long-term effects of climate change.

Urgent Action Required

The alarming trends in global temperatures and sea surface temperatures necessitate immediate and decisive action to address climate breakdown. The consequences of inaction are far-reaching, affecting not only the environment but also human health, livelihoods, and economies. World leaders must intensify their efforts to implement sustainable measures and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The time to act is now, as we cannot afford to lose any more precious moments.

Quotes from Prominent Figures

  • World Meteorological Organization Secretary-General Prof. Petteri Taalas highlights the impact of the heatwave, saying, "The northern hemisphere just had a summer of extremes - with repeated heatwaves fuelling devastating wildfires, harming health, disrupting daily lives, and wreaking a lasting toll on the environment. In the southern hemisphere, Antarctic sea ice extent was literally off the charts, and the global sea surface temperature was once again at a new record."
  • Carlo Buontempo, Director of the Copernicus Climate Change Service, ECMWF, emphasizes the significance of the current conditions, stating, "Eight months into 2023, so far we are experiencing the second warmest year to date, only fractionally cooler than 2016, and August was estimated to be around 1.5°C warmer than pre-industrial levels. What we are observing, not only new extremes but the persistence of these record-breaking conditions, and the impacts these have on both people and planet, are a clear consequence of the warming of the climate system."


The Earth's scorching heatwave, marked by record-breaking temperatures and unprecedented sea surface temperatures, demands immediate action to combat climate breakdown. The Copernicus Climate Change Service and the World Meteorological Organization provide invaluable data and reports to monitor and understand the severity of the situation. It is crucial for world leaders to prioritize sustainability and take decisive measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The time for action is now, as we strive to protect our planet for future generations.

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