On Monday, the global average temperature reached a record high of 17.01 C. The next day, the record was broken by another 0.17 C, according to the University of Maine’s Climate Reanalyzer. Scientists predict Wednesday’s temperatures might surpass both of these once again.

Heat warnings are currently in place across southern Ontario and Quebec, the north coast of B.C., northwestern Alberta and parts of the Northwest Territories. Much of Quebec also remains under an air quality advisory due to smoke from wildfires. There are also air quality advisories due to wildfires in northern Alberta, northeastern B.C., and a large section of Yukon, including Whitehorse.

On July 4, Toronto reached a high of 30.7 C, and temperatures are expected to remain high until the end of Thursday when the heat warning for southern Ontario is expected to lift. Similarly, in Quebec City, the temperature reached 29.8 C on July 4 and is forecasted to be 30 C or higher on Wednesday and Thursday, with a humidex value of 40.

Temperatures in the Maritimes have not been unseasonably high over the last few days, but thunderstorm watches were issued for both Nova Scotia and New Brunswick on Wednesday. Despite normal air temperatures, Maritime residents have seen humidex values in the high 20s and low 30s this past week due to subtropical humid air that circulated from near the Bahamas up the eastern seaboard of the U.S. and settled over the Atlantic provinces. This warm, moisture-filled air has led to rain and thunderstorms in the Maritimes, while much of the rest of the country is sweltering under the sun.

In much of Alberta, including Calgary and Edmonton, heat warnings were in effect from June 28 to July 1. However, since an EF4 tornado — a tornado with winds between 270 and 310 kilometres per hour — tore through Mountain View County north of Calgary on Saturday, temperatures in the area have dropped significantly. From July 2 to 4, temperatures in Calgary hovered around 20 C, which is below the daily average high.

Canadians should prepare for more extreme weather for the rest of the year, due to the arrival of El Niño. The natural climate phenomenon officially arrived on June 8, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction Centre in the U.S. El Niño occurs when trade winds that blow west along the equator become weaker and warm water is pushed east closer to the Americas. As a result, the Pacific jet stream moves south, causing areas in the northern U.S. and Canada to become warmer and drier and the southeast and Gulf Coast of the U.S. to become wetter.

El Niño exacerbates extreme weather and contributes to warm temperatures across the globe. This year is expected to be hotter than 2022, which ranks as the fifth or sixth hottest year on record. High temperatures in 2016, the hottest year on record, were caused by this phenomenon. The past eight years have been the warmest on record, due to the accumulated heat from rising greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere.

The average global temperature in 2022 was 1.15 C above pre-industrial levels, and with the combination of El Niño and the continued burning of fossil fuels, it is becoming increasingly likely that the world will exceed 1.5 C of warming in the next few years — the threshold that was set in the 2015 Paris Agreement. Since adopting the international climate treaty, many countries’ climate efforts have been focused on keeping the global average temperature below this threshold, in order to prevent more severe climate change impacts.

As El Niño causes the most significant warming during the winter in the Northern Hemisphere, 2024 will likely have higher global temperatures than this year. Unfortunately, it seems extreme heat is here to stay, and Canadians should expect increasingly hot and dry summers as high greenhouse gas concentrations continue to interact with natural climate phenomena in devastating ways.

Heat warnings are currently in place across southern Ontario and Quebec, the north coast of B.C., northwestern Alberta and parts of the Northwest Territories.

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We are in dangerous territory now.

I think it's important to communicate to the public that Monday's global average temperature of over 17 degrees C was 2 degrees (!) above the global mean temperature of 15 degrees C (which scientists calculate was the average global temperature in pre-industrial times, 1880-1900). So for one or more days this year we have surpassed the 1.5 degree threshold of the Paris agreement.

I think it's so hard for people to understand the true weight of these seemingly minor changes in global temperature. One good comparison: Scientists say that the change in global temperature during the last Ice Age was only 4-5 degrees C below the global mean temperature.

I think it's a challenge for journalists and the media to communicate these facts to the public in a way that they truly understand.