If you’re in the Northern Hemisphere, you’ll be painfully aware that July 2022 was a hot one. An obnoxiously hot one, in fact. To portray this monumental month, NASA Earth Observatory has created a pair of maps using satellite observations to show just how scorching the air temperatures were in much of North America, Europe, Africa, and Asia.
The first map (below) shows daily high temperatures in the US on July 31, a day that was particularly sweltering when temperatures reached over 48°C (118°F) in some parts of the country, like Texas and California's Central Valley. As you can see on the map, temperatures were particularly roasting in the Southeastern states, the Great Plains, and Pacific Northwest.
Over the course of the month, almost the entire US saw above-average temperatures, and over 150 million people — nearly half the population — were issued intense heat warnings.
Part of the reason July was so hot was the emergence of a “heat dome” over the US: A ridge of high pressure across the central and eastern US, essentially preventing heat from escaping like a lid on a pot of boiling water. The trapped hot air also dried and warmed the land surface, which in turn heated the air even more.
It wasn’t just the US that felt the heat. Europe also saw a significant heat wave in July, with the UK enduring record temperatures of 40.3°C (104.54°F) and France seeing its hottest day on record at an astonishing 45.9°C (114.6°F). Deadly wildfires also ravaged France, Portugal, Spain, and Greece, forcing thousands of people to evacuate their homes.
Wickedly hot heatwaves like the ones seen in July 2022 are likely to be the new normal and the world is woefully ill-prepared to deal with the fallout. Preliminary data shows thousands more people died in Europe during the continent's brutal July heatwave. A complete death toll likely will not be available for some time due to the difficulty in counting excess deaths in a heat event, but many European continents have estimated that the heatwave was linked to thousands of deaths.
Intense heat is also taking its toll on infrastructure. With air conditioners cracked to full power, Europe’s power grid was put under extreme strain amid the record-breaking temperature days. In the UK, London reportedly spent a record amount on extra electricity supply and narrowly avoided a blackout.
All of this is separable from the rising global temperatures associated with the climate crisis. Scientists from Imperial College London found that the UK heatwave was made at least 10 times more likely due to human-induced climate change. With Earth's temperatures only set to rise, we can expect to see even more extreme heatwaves in the years to come.