September ‘hottest on record’ as wildfires rage, countries flood and Arctic ice melts

Jimmy Nsubuga
The higher temperatures have contributed to wildfires in California (Picture: Getty)
The higher temperatures have contributed to wildfires in California (Picture: Getty)

We’ve just had the hottest September on record which was caused by unusually high temperatures across the world, according to an EU climate organisation.

Globally, September was 0.05 degrees warmer than the same month in 2019 and 0.08C warmer than in 2016, previously the warmest and second warmest Septembers on record, the Copernicus Climate Change Service reported.

The organisation said on Wednesday the hot weather in 2020 had played a major role in disasters including fires in California, melting sea ice in the Arctic and floods in Asia.

“As we go into an even warmer world, certain extremes are likely to happen more often and be more intense,” Copernicus’ senior scientist Freja Vamborg said, pointing to heat waves and periods of intense rain as examples.

People walk through floodwater after heavy rain at a residential area in Jakarta, Indonesia (Picture: Getty)
People walk through floodwater after heavy rain at a residential area in Jakarta, Indonesia (Picture: Getty)

The September record was mainly driven by spikes in temperature in areas in Siberia, the Middle East, South America and Australia due to an extension of a long-term warming trend caused by emissions of heat-trapping gases.

Over the final three months of 2020, climate events such as the La Niña phenomenon and projected low levels of autumn Arctic sea ice will influence whether the year as a whole will become the warmest on record, the Copernicus service added.

Wildfires in California have burned more than 4 million acres (1.6 million hectares) in 2020, over twice the previous record for any year and an area larger than Connecticut, the state’s fire agency reported on Sunday.

The most populous US state has suffered five of its six largest wildfires in history this year as heat waves and dry-lightning sieges coincided with drier conditions that climate scientists blamed on global warming.

At least 31 people have died in this year’s fires and over 8,454 homes and other structures have been destroyed.

California’s previous record burn area was nearly 2 million acres in 2018 when the state had its most deadly and destructive wildfire that killed at least 85 civilians and destroyed nearly 19,000 structures in and around the mountain town of Paradise.

Countries agreed under the 2015 Paris climate accord to attempt to cap warming at 1.5 degrees, which scientists say would avoid the most catastrophic impacts of climate change.

But even though large emitters, including China and the European Union, have pledged to slash their emissions in the coming decades, overall, current policies would see temperatures rise far beyond the 1.5 degree level.

“That is the key point. The earth has warmed a lot, and it will carry on warming if greenhouse gas emissions continue at the rate they are at the moment,” Vamborg said.

The last five calendar years were the world’s warmest on record.

Average global temperatures have already climbed to roughly 1 degree Celsius above pre-industrial times.