In June and July 2022, heatwaves swept throughout Europe, North Africa, the Middle East, and Asia as temperatures soared beyond 104 degrees Fahrenheit (40 degrees Celsius) in certain locations and shattered several previous records.
The bulk of the Eastern Hemisphere’s surface air temperatures are shown on the map above for July 13, 2022. It was produced by combining data with an iteration of the Goddard Earth Observing System (GEOS) global model, which uses mathematical equations to depict physical processes in the atmosphere.
According to Steven Pawson, head of the Global Modeling and Assimilation Office at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, “there is a clear pattern of a ‘atmospheric wave’ with alternating warm (redder) and cool (bluer) values in different locations. However, this large area of extreme (and record-breaking) heat is another clear indicator that emissions of greenhouse gases by human activity are causing weather extremes that affect our living conditions.”
The warmth in Western Europe, which was already experiencing extreme dryness, stoked the flames that tore through Spain, Portugal, and portions of France. On July 13, temperatures in the Portuguese town of Leiria, where more than 3,000 hectares (7,400 acres) had burnt, reached to 113 degrees Fahrenheit (45 degrees Celsius). More than half of the nation was on red alert as firefighters fought 14 active fires.
The Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) on board the Suomi NPP satellite captured this image showing the locations of fire detections across Spain and Portugal on July 12, 2022. The community of Las Hurdes, which has lost more than 1,500 hectares (3,700 acres) to fire, is one of the notable fire detections west of Madrid.
On July 3, a part of the Marmolada Glacier in the Dolomites collapsed due to Italy’s record heat. The avalanche of snow, ice, and rocks claimed the lives of 11 hikers.
As temperatures were predicted to rise and perhaps reach all-time highs, the Met Office in the U.K. issued severe heat or amber warnings.
Tunisia in North Africa has seen a heatwave and wildfires that have hurt the nation’s grain harvest. A 40-year record was broken on July 13 in Tunis, the country’s capital, when the temperature rose to 118 degrees Fahrenheit (48 degrees Celsius).
After peaking at a blistering 52 degrees Celsius (126 degrees Fahrenheit) in late June, the temperature in Iran remained high throughout July.
Three heatwaves that hit China this summer have caused asphalt to melt, roads to crumble, and roof tiles to come off. The hottest temperature ever recorded at the Shanghai Xujiahui Observatory, where records have been kept since 1873, was 105 degrees Fahrenheit (40.9 degrees Celsius) on July 13, 2022. Warm nighttime temperatures were combined with high dewpoints and humidity to create potentially fatal situations.
In addition to having additional effects, such as the fires that are currently occurring in Europe and Africa and that have been raging in North America for the past few years, Pawson noted that such intense heat directly affects human health.
Joshua Stevens created NASA Earth Observatory pictures using VIIRS day-night band data from the Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership and GEOS-5 data from the Global Modeling and Assimilation Office at NASA GSFC.