Global temperatures have broken records three times in a week
To read more of The Economists data journalism visit our Graphic Detail page. ON JULY 3RD the average global air temperature reached a new record. On July 4th the average global air temperature reached a new record. And on July 6th the average global air temperature reached a new record (see chart). Three records in a single week may seem alarming. Heatwaves in Asia and America, and a warm summer in Europe, are contributing to the global average. Scientists reckon more records could come as summer in the northern hemisphere gets into full swing. The old record of 16.924C (62.463F) had stood since 2016 (in 2022 it was equalled but not exceeded). July 3rd was also 0.086C higher than the previous peak, the biggest margin ever recorded. The next day, the difference doubled. The new record is 17.233C, more than half a degree warmer than the hottest temperature recorded in 1980. Gaps between record-breaking years range from three to 15 years. Current data do not show that these periods are getting shorter. But when a record is broken, it rarely happens just once in a year. The biggest influence on the Earths temperature, aside from global warming, is the El Nino-Southern Oscillation (ENSO), a natural phenomenon that affects weather patterns around the world. After an unusually long period of La Nina, ENSOs cooling phase, the Earth recently entered El Nino, its warming phase, according to Americas National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, a federal body, and the World Meteorological Organisation. This is the first El Nino in seven years. Previous highs have often occurred towards the end of a strong El Nino, when the warming pattern has heated the Earth. The recent switch to El Nino, therefore, is unlikely to be the cause of the latest record-breaking temperatures. Its effect should be in full swing next summer, when more records could be set. That would be the first time new records have been attained in two consecutive years. Data from Copernicus, the EUs Earth-observation programme, had shown this June to be the warmest ever. In the first week of the month temperatures briefly rose to more than 1.50C above pre-industrial levels, not for the first time: daily or short-term breaches have happened sporadically since 2015. The 1.5C threshold is a totemic number for climate change: in 2015 world leaders meeting in Paris agreed to limit the rise in temperatures above pre-industrial levels to well below 2C and strive to get as close as possible to 1.5C. Research since then has shown that even breaching this lower limit will have grave consequences for many poor countriesand existential ones for some. The milestone will be fully passed when the global average across all four seasons is consistently 1.5C higher than pre-industrial levels. First, though, it will be passed once, in one year. The World Meteorological Organisation reckons there is a 66% chance that this will happen in the next five years.