In summer 2022, multiple heatwaves around the world shattered temperature records and fueled wildfires.
Heatwaves struck Europe, North Africa, the Middle East, and Asia, in June and July 2022 as temperatures climbed above 104 degrees Fahrenheit (40 degrees Celsius) in places and broke many long-standing records.
The map above depicts surface air temperatures throughout the majority of the Eastern Hemisphere on July 13, 2022. It was created by merging data with a version of the Goddard Earth Observing System (GEOS) global model, which represents physical processes in the atmosphere using mathematical equations.
“While there is a clear pattern of an ‘atmospheric wave’ with alternating warm (redder) and cool (bluer) values in different locations, 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 impact our living conditions,” said Steven Pawson, chief of the Global Modeling and Assimilation Office at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.
In Western Europe, which was already suffering from severe drought, the heatwave fueled fires that raged across Spain, Portugal, and parts of France. In Portugal, temperatures soared to 113 degrees Fahrenheit (45 degrees Celsius) on July 13 in the town of Leiria, where more than 3,000 hectares (7,400 acres) had burned. As firefighters battled 14 active fires, more than half of the country was on red alert.
The above image shows the locations of fire detections in Spain and Portugal as observed by the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) on the Suomi NPP satellite on July 12, 2022. The prominent fire detections west of Madrid include the town of Las Hurdes where more than 1,500 hectares (3,700 acres) have been consumed by fire.
The record heat in Italy contributed to the collapse of a portion of the Marmolada Glacier in the Dolomites on July 3. 11 hikers were killed by the snow, ice, and rock avalanche.
In the U.K., the Met Office issued extreme heat or amber warnings as temperatures were expected to continue to climb, possibly breaking all-time record highs.
In North Africa, Tunisia has endured a heatwave and fires that have damaged the country’s grain crop. On July 13 in the capital city of Tunis, the temperature reached 118 degrees Fahrenheit (48 degrees Celsius), breaking a 40-year record.
In Iran, temperatures remained high in July after reaching a scorching 52 degrees Celsius (126 degrees Fahrenheit) in late June.
In China, the summer has brought three heatwaves that have melted tar, buckled roads, and popped off roof tiles. The Shanghai Xujiahui Observatory, where records have been kept since 1873, recorded its highest temperature ever: 105 degrees Fahrenheit (40.9 degrees Celsius) on July 13, 2022. High humidity and dewpoints, along with warm overnight temperatures, created potentially deadly conditions.
“Such extreme heat has direct impacts on human health, as well as having other consequences, including these fires that are occurring now in Europe and Africa, and which have been rampant over the past few years in North America,” Pawson said.
NASA Earth Observatory images by Joshua Stevens, using GEOS-5 data from the Global Modeling and Assimilation Office at NASA GSFC and VIIRS day-night band data from the Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership.