Japan has seen its hottest month since records began in a year expected to be the warmest in human history. Its scorching September averaged 2.66 degrees Celsius (36.78 degrees Fahrenheit) higher than usual.
The scorching temperatures didn’t just affect the land, as sea surface temperatures were higher than usual. Officials say the anomaly is due to meandering westerlies that deviated northward than usual while a Pacific high-pressure system gained strength in eastern Japan. This made the archipelago more prone to warm air from the south, causing extreme heat across the country.
This summer, the agency said that average temperatures in northern, eastern, and western Japan were considerably higher than last year’s previous record. At 106 of 915 monitoring locations, the highest temperature records were broken between 16 July and 23 August.
Temperatures were also unusually high in the rest of the world, with a significant portion of Antarctica and much of the southeastern tropical Pacific recording above-normal levels. The global average sea surface temperature was 0.5 degrees Celsius (0.92 degrees Fahrenheit) above the 20th-century average.
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The hot summer weather prompted several wildfires to burn across Japan, which has been battered by devastating earthquakes and tsunamis over the past three decades. The fires have displaced over 100,000 people, with some still living in temporary shelters, and have burned a vast area of forest.
According to the Japan Meteorological Agency, the soaring temperatures were caused by a combination of factors, including the warming effects of climate change. Officials say the heatwave has exacerbated drought conditions in some parts of the country and that the country is facing more frequent wildfires this autumn.
As the world grapples with the escalating risks of climate change, this summer’s record-breaking heatwaves have been a sobering reminder of the urgency to act now.
Globally, the June-August period was the hottest in the 174-year record and was driven by El Nino, with NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center stating that there is a greater than 95% chance that the phenomenon will continue through the winter.
Several other countries, including Austria, France, Germany, Poland, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom, have already announced that they will experience their warmest September ever recorded. French weather authority Meteo-France stated that the country’s September average temperature would be around 21.5 degrees Celsius, between 3.5 and 3.6 Celsius above the 1991-2020 reference period. They add that they expect last month’s scorching temperatures to be the norm for the foreseeable future.