Fireworks weren’t the only thing sizzling on July 4.
According to the U.S. National Centers for Environmental Prediction, the global temperature soared to 62.92 degrees Fahrenheit (17.18 degrees Celsius), making the day the hottest since at least 1979, when the data was first collected.
But some scientists believe the Earth hasn’t experienced heat like this since mammoths roamed the planet.
“It hasn’t been this warm since at least 125,000 years ago, which was the previous interglacial,” Paulo Ceppi, a climate scientist at London’s Grantham Institute, told The Washington Post.
Just how hot was it? According to the Post’s extreme heat tracker, 57 million people in the US were exposed to dangerous heat yesterday. Texas has been under a deadly heat dome since last week, causing a public health crisis in that state.
Meanwhile, China has also been blanketed by a heat wave, the Antarctic is reporting record-high temperatures even though it’s winter, and temperatures in North Africa soared to 122F, according to Reuters.
The worst is yet to come
Climate scientists say the scorching weather is due to climate change, El Niño, and the start of summer.
While Tuesday’s record-breaking average temperature surpassed the previous mark of 62.62 Fahrenheit, which was set the day before, many believe even warmer temperatures are on the horizon.
“When’s the hottest day likely to be? It’s going to be when global warming, El Niño, and the annual cycle all line up together. Which is the next couple months,” said Myles Allen, a professor of geosystem science at Oxford University, told the Post. “It’s a triple whammy.”
The heat’s impact on the economy
The extreme heat doesn’t just impact our health — it also affects the economy.
“Extended bouts of great heat can result in more hospital visits, a sharp loss of productivity in construction and agriculture, reduced agricultural yields, and even direct damage to infrastructure,” according to Phys.org, a science, research, and technology news site.
A 2018 study found that hot summer months have a significant effect on the U.S. economy. “The data shows that annual growth falls 0.15 to 0.25 percentage points for every 1 degree Fahrenheit that a state’s average summer temperature was above normal,” researchers said.
Moreover, the International Labour Organization (ILO) predicts that, by 2030, heat waves could reduce the number of hours worked by more than 2%, which is about 80 million full-time jobs and a cost of $2.4 trillion.