July 2023 marked a new world record in terms of the hottest ever recorded days on Earth – for three consecutive days, the recorded results have showcased the culmination of a number of different contributing factors which have driven the median global temperatures higher than they’ve ever been before. In the last three years, the world has been experiencing a drawn-out La Nina weather pattern and cycle. This is longer than the typical nine to twelve month La Nina and El Nino climate cycles. These climate patterns are responsible for determining things like temperature and rainfall across all regions of the globe.  Locally, La Nina has meant wetter and colder temperatures from December to February, whereas over the equator in East Africa, conditions have been drier than normal. Over the past decades, particularly after 2000, there have been both a number of floods as well as droughts that have been attributed to the increasingly intense La Nina weather cycles including the last devastating floods that took place in South Africa in 2010 and 2011 as well as last year’s floods in KZN.

However, globally – we are now officially out of La Nina and entering the next El Nino cycle. What this means is the converse of La Nina, countries that have been experience wetter and colder conditions are now going to experience heat and dryness and vice versa. This is already evidenced by the three hottest days recorded so far in July 2023. Climate researchers have attributed these record breaking days to “human-caused climate change” and El Nino. Scientists thought that Monday the 3rd of July was going to hold the record for a least a little while – sadly, they were mistaken, with Tuesday the 4th of July superseding this, which has been described as both “terrifying and totally unprecedented.” Prior to the beginning of July 2023, the hottest day on record was in August 2016 with a global average of 16.92 degrees Celsius. Monday the 3rd’s temperature came in 17.01 degrees Celsius which was a significant increase in itself, let alone the Tuesday and the Wednesday that followed at 17.18 degrees Celsius.

While the data that this is being benchmarked against technically only goes back to 1979, there are other data sets and means of comparison including European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service records. According to an interview that Paulo Ceppi a climate scientist at Imperial College London’s Grantham Institute did with the Washington Post, this “data tell us that it hasn’t been this warm since at least 125,000 years ago. Looking to the future, we can expect global warming to continue and hence temperature records to be broken increasingly frequently, unless we rapidly act to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero.”