104°F in Beijing. 130°F in Death Valley, CA. 67°F in Antarctica. That’s right. Antarctica.
Last week, the globe set a brand-new record – and not one we want to celebrate.
Earth experienced its hottest ever average temperature this past week. What does this mean? The global air temperature measured 2 meters off the ground at thousands of different weather stations and from satellites and computers estimated that, on average, the globe experienced its new record high temperature.
The highest average temperature record was officially broken on July 3rd with the global average temperature at 62.6° Fahrenheit, and then was immediately topped on July 4th and 5th with a 62.9° Fahrenheit reading.
Data taken from the University of Maine’s Climate Reanalyzer is responsible for the first tip-off about the record heat – data which was then confirmed by National Centers for Environmental Prediction.
Hearing this statistic is scary. But knowledge is power. Let’s learn what exactly happened last week, and then learn what we can do about it.
What’s Going On With These Temps?
1. El Niño effect
This is a natural climate phenomenon where wind patterns shift from easterly to westerly, bringing warmer waters from the western Pacific over to the eastern and central Pacific. This causes the air above the ocean’s surface to warm causing higher atmospheric temperatures.
This is a natural phenomenon that happens roughly every 2-7 years. And the earth, smart Mother that she is, has a checks and balances system in place. El Niño has a counterpart, La Niña, which counteracts the El Niño when warm water off the coast of South America is blown southwest, allowing cooler waters to rise off the coast of South America and cool the air temperature.
2. Hotter oceans
Data from the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration showed last week that 40% of the world’s oceans are experiencing some of the most extreme marine heat waves since 1991.
A marine heat wave occurs when temperatures in the ocean are in the top 10% warmest temps for that particular region over a span of 5 days. Scientists report that typically only 10% of oceans would be at high enough temperatures to be considered a marine heat wave.
The high temperature of the oceans is directly tied to global warming as oceans absorb 90% of human-made greenhouse gases. Scientists are concerned about the North Atlantic ocean temps rising as they drive our extreme weather conditions and can cause drought.
3. Climate change
Climate is average weather. It defines the average weather conditions of an area or planet over time.
Think of how large the globe is and how much heat capacity the oceans have. When you think of the enormity of our planet, you realize how difficult it would be to raise the entire temperature of the globe even by a tiny amount. It has been confirmed that the earth has gotten hotter by 2.1° since the pre-industrial era. While 2 degrees of change may seem small, that is a staggering increase considering the size of our globe. For perspective, only 9° set our modern age apart from the last Ice Age.
This radical increase in global temperature due to greenhouse gas emissions and the greenhouse effect, combined with natural phenomenon, are overpowering our planet.
If it’s hard for you to imagine the effects of climate change on the average global temperature, this world temperature map gives a helpful visual.
The last 8 years have been the hottest and most weather-extreme in history. Just in the U.S. alone, costs of damages due to extreme weather and natural disasters came to $165 billion in 2022. While the U.S. may not have experienced the intensity of heat the rest of the world did this week, we can see how the rest of the world suffered in the heat waves. And we know that those nations that get unjustly hit hardest by the effects of climate change with rising sea levels and sever weather crises are small island states – states which are not responsible for the massive output of greenhouse gas emissions from larger nations. None of us are immune, yet we all affect each other because, remember, climate is the average. It takes us all into account.
So, What Can We Do?
1. Join NJIN
Seriously. We want young people to understand how powerful they are – and knowledge is power. So, join us at our online and in-person summer Capstone Research Program and gain the knowledge you need to take action!
Young people are living seeing their home quickly being destroyed. It is hard to be passionate about climate change when it does not affect you personally – which is what makes young people such powerful environmental justice advocates. Their lives are personally affected as they face real uncertainty of a safe future.
NJIN creates camp experiences for middle and high schoolers that provide research opportunities, mentorship from experts in environmental fields, and hands-on experience with innovating solutions. We want to give young people power and advocacy and give them experiences that help them get into excellent colleges. NJIN is a space for young people to explore nature, to ask real questions, and to learn their unique contribution to fighting climate change and changing our world for the better.
2. Stay informed
It is easy to get overwhelmed by the sheer mass of information in our modern-day society. And it can be discouraging to hear despairing facts about the state of our planet.
We recommend picking a few reputable sources that you personally are drawn to and trust and check in on those on a routine that works for you. Every day may be too much for you, so maybe check every other day or once a week. Find a routine that allows you to take in information without shutting down or getting overwhelmed.
And always remember, if you read a shocking headline, make sure to research and check multiple sources before you let your emotions take over. Misinformation is everywhere today. Make sure you do your research! (We can help you learn how to do that. Join our summer Capstone Research Project and hone your research abilities this summer!)
3. Share, share, share
Many of us are on social media every day. Rather than simply scrolling or numbing out, try to utilize your social media platforms as a place to share valuable information about climate change issues. When you discover a climate change organization that’s doing amazing work, share it. When you hear a story about someone whose life was impacted by climate change, share it. When you hear a clever idea for how to reuse and recycle, share it! Social media can be an incredible place for us to spread information and encouragement about how we can positively affect the planet.
Give us a follow at @nj_institute_of_nature! We love to share.
At NJIN, we are passionate about helping young people discover their earth-purpose. Our programs are designed to offer structured curriculum and real-world experiences within a space that encourages students to roam freely in nature, growing their innovation, self-exploration, and experimentation. Join us!