The Southern Hemisphere may have just matched its highest temperature on record on Thursday. A station in Onslow, a coastal town in Western Australia, registered a sweltering 123.3 degrees (50.7 degrees Celsius) amid a severe heat wave.
The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has begun a meticulous review of the temperature reading. If verified, it would tie the all-time high reading set in Oodnadatta, Australia, on Jan. 2, 1960.
A massive heat dome was parked over western Australia with Onslow sitting directly underneath it. Temperatures were about 20 degrees (11 Celsius) above normal at the hottest time of year.
The extreme temperature arrives the same week that several of the world’s top climate research institutions announced the past seven years have been the hottest in history. In that time, temperature records have been broken across the world. The WMO currently has four ongoing investigations, having just completed another.
“Since the creation of the WMO World Archive of Weather and Climate Extremes in 2007, we have never had so many ongoing verification/evaluations as we currently do,” Randy Cerveny, who leads the World Meteorological Organization’s weather and climate extremes team, wrote in an email.
Here is a select list of verified and unverified national and international record-breaking temperatures (in recorded history) in just the past two years:
- World’s hottest year at 1.08 degrees (0.6 Celsius) warmer than 1981-2010 average; 2020 tied with 2016
- World’s hottest month at 1.67 degrees (0.93 degrees Celsius) above the 20th-century average; July 2021
- World’s hottest (and North America’s hottest) reliable temperature at 129.9 degrees (54.4 degrees Celsius), at least since 1931; Death Valley, Calif., August 16, 2020 and July 9, 2021
- Arctic’s hottest temperature at 100.4 degrees (38 degrees Celsius); Verkhoyansk, Russia, June 20, 2020.
- Antarctica’s coldest season with an average of -78 degrees (-61 Celsius); 2021
- Europe’s hottest temperature at 119.8 degrees (48.8 degrees Celsius); Syracuse, Sicily, August 11, 2021
- Canada’s hottest temperature at 121 degrees (49.6 degrees Celsius); Lytton, British Columbia, June 29, 2021
- Turkey’s hottest temperature at 120.4 degrees (49.1 degrees Celsius); Cizre, Turkey, July 20, 2021
- Spain’s hottest temperature at 117 degrees (47.4 degrees Celsius) Montoro, August 14, 2021
- Greece’s hottest temperature at 115.3 degrees (46.3 degrees Celsius); Makrakomi, August 2, 2021
- Paraguay’s hottest temperature at 113.9 degrees (45.5 degrees Celsius); Pozo Hondo, Sept. 26, 2020
- Oman’s hottest temperature at 124.9 degrees (51.6 degrees Celsius); Joba, June 16, 2021
- United Arab Emirates tied hottest temperature at 125.2 degrees (51.8 degrees Celsius); Sweihan, June 6, 2021
- Iraq’s hottest temperature at 125.2 degrees (51.8 degrees Celsius); Baghdad, July 28, 2020
- Cuba’s hottest temperature at 102.7 degrees (39.3 degrees Celsius); Veguitas, August 11, 2020
- Ghana’s hottest temperature at 111.2 degrees (44 degrees Celsius); Navrongo, April 6, 2020
- Lebanon’s hottest temperature at 113.7 degrees (45.4 degrees Celsius), Houche Al Oumara, July 27, 2020
- The contiguous United States’ warmest December with an average of 39.3 degrees (4 degrees Celsius); 2021
According to climatologist Maximiliano Herrera, in all, 10 different countries tied or broke national heat records in 2021 (Morocco, Taiwan, Tunisia and Dominica, in addition to those listed above).
Those extremes are just scratching the surface. Outside of national or international records, unprecedented extremes are occurring in local communities and at smaller time scales as well. Cerveny said local high temperatures are being “exceeded much more frequently than low-temperature records.”
Herrera documented 400 weather stations in communities or outposts worldwide that established all-time high temperatures in 2021.
“We are seeing more frequent extremes in temperature,” wrote Cerveny. “The climate that we have lived through over the past decades is changing and we must be aware of that – and realize those fundamental changes have consequences to our way of life.”