We knew July was sweltering for the Northern Hemisphere, but this air temperature map based on NASA satellite data really puts it in perspective. The darkest areas represent temperatures around or above 38 degrees Celsius — heat that can easily turn deadly for vulnerable people.
Houston experienced its hottest July on record. Several cities saw record-breaking temperatures on July 24, including Boston at 38 degrees C, Albany, New York at 36 degrees C, and Providence, Rhode Island at 36.6 degrees C, the New York Times reported. By late July, more than 100 million Americans were under a heat warning or heat advisory. Cities in the historically temperate Pacific Northwest saw temperatures well above average in the last week of July. The Portland, Oregon area experienced six days over 35 degrees C. At least seven people in the Portland region died in July as a result of the heat.
Twice last month, wildfire flames moved in close to Mariposa Grove in Yosemite National Park, which is home to hundreds of mature giant sequoia trees. On July 29, the McKinney Fire began burning in northern California and became the largest wildfire in California’s 2022 wildfire season in just a few days, killing four people.
In Europe, the UK had its hottest day ever recorded on July 19, and fires raged around London. Temperatures topped at 40 degrees C across a region where most homes do not have central air conditioning and where much of the infrastructure was designed to withstand cooler, damp weather. France saw its hottest day since 2003 on July 18, when temperatures reached 37.6 degrees C, Le Monde reported.
An NASA animation using July 2022 air temperature data across the Western Hemisphere shows how the heat fluctuated but remained intense all month.
The heat was especially deadly in Europe. A Spanish public health research organisation recorded 1,047 deaths locally linked to record-breaking heat in the country in mid-July. Portugal reported about 1,000 heat-related deaths by late July. London Mayor Sadiq Khan told the BBC that there were so many fires raging across the area in late July that the city’s fire brigade had its busiest day since World War II. On an average day, the brigade receives around 350 calls, but during the UK heat wave, it received 2,600 calls in one day.
As global average temperatures rise under climate change, these heat-related disasters will intensify and become more common, a major report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change found last year.