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The Hottest Three-Week Period: July 2023

In the summer months of 2023, the world experienced the hottest three-week period to date. This alarming trend is evident in a recent study conducted by the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT). The study, carried out by researchers from KIT’s Center for Disaster Management and Risk Reduction Technology (CEDIM), reveals that Germany witnessed double the number of individuals exposed to daily temperatures of 35 degrees and higher compared to the average between 1980 and 1999. Meanwhile, it was found that Italy faced the highest heat exposure in Europe.

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The Global Heatwave of 2023: Insights from Investigation

The summer of 2023 witnessed numerous heatwaves, varying in intensity and duration, across different regions of the northern hemisphere. The “Untersuchung der globalen Hitzewelle im Jahr 2023” (investigation of the global heatwave in 2023) conducted by the Forensic Disaster Analysis (FDA) Task Force Group of KIT’s CEDIM delves into the record-breaking temperatures reached and the population’s exposure to extreme heat.

Unprecedented Ocean Surface Temperatures and Earth’s Surface Records

The study found that previous all-time record temperatures were drastically surpassed in some regions, while new daily or monthly records were established in others. Of particular concern, global mean ocean surface temperatures in June 2023 reached unparalleled levels. Furthermore, the investigation reveals that June 2023 was the warmest June since 1850 when considering the Earth’s surface, including landmass. Remarkably, the first three weeks of July 2023 emerged as the hottest three-week period ever recorded globally. On July 6, a new daily record of 17.08 degrees Celsius was set, followed closely by July 5 and 7, both at 17.07 degrees Celsius. Additionally, the Mediterranean countries, North Africa, the Middle East, the United States, Canada, and China experienced extreme temperatures and potentially set new country-specific records (pending confirmation by the World Meteorological Organization).

Dr. Andreas Schäfer, part of the FDA Task Force Group of CEDIM, emphasizes the significance of long-lasting and extraordinary large-scale flow patterns in the development of substantial temperature anomalies. The distribution of pressure in the middle troposphere at an altitude of approximately 5.5 kilometers plays a pivotal role in influencing upper airflow and the associated transport of air masses. Schäfer notes that in July 2023, persistently high-pressure systems prevailed in the regions affected by extreme heat. The descending air masses in these regions contributed significantly to the warming and the local intensification of the heatwave.

The investigation also sheds light on the population’s vulnerability to heat. In Germany, approximately seven million individuals were exposed to maximum daily temperatures surpassing 25 degrees Celsius. This number represents a 40 percent increase compared to the average between 1980 and 1999. Even more concerningly, the number of individuals exposed to daily temperatures of 35 degrees Celsius and above doubled to around 206,000. Italy, Greece, Spain, the United States, China, and India also witnessed significantly higher heat exposure during the summer months compared to previous decades.

Efforts to Combat Heat in Italy and Germany

Among the affected countries, Italy experienced the most severe heatwave. The study highlights that Italy recorded new temperature records exceeding 40 degrees Celsius. Compared to the period between 1980 and 1999, the number of individuals exposed to such high temperatures skyrocketed from 4000 to over 127,000 in 2023. To mitigate the adverse health impacts of heat exposure, Italian state institutions have implemented various adaptation strategies, including the installation of public wells and water dispenser systems. Similarly, Germany has focused on heat mitigation measures primarily in urban areas, where public wells and water dispensers are more prominent.

Access the Original Publication

If you wish to explore the aforementioned investigation in detail, the original publication by Andreas Sch├ñfer, Bernhard M├╝hr, Florian Kaiser, Denise B├Âhnke, Susanna Mohr, and Michael Kunz is available as an open-access resource. The report, titled “Untersuchung der globalen Hitzewelle im Jahr 2023” (in English: Investigation of the Global Heatwave in 2023), was published by the CEDIM Forensic Disaster Analysis (FDA) Group at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT). The publication is available at https://publikationen.bibliothek.kit.edu/1000161235.

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