Temperature records were broken at more than 400 weather stations around the world in 2021, according to a climate statistics expert.
Maximiliano Herrera has been tracking extreme weather for three decades, compiling an annual list of records beaten in the previous year.
The year 2021, he said, was “full of extreme events” – and is likely to have been among the hottest. One of the first readings of last year’s data ranks it as the fifth warmest on record.
Africa experienced its warmest June and September ever last year, while the highest reliably-recorded temperature on Earth (54.4C) was documented in America’s Death Valley.
The world felt the brutal effects of the climate crisis in 2021 – from wildfires in Greece to failed rain seasons in Kenya, where people without food and water have had to rely on government aid.
Mr Herrera was most shocked by what he called “the mother of all heatwaves” which hit the west coast of America last summer. It shattered records by up to 5C in places – and deadly wildfires ripped through homes.
“I would have never believed this to be even physically impossible,” the climatologist told The Guardian. “The magnitude of this event surpassed anything I have seen after a life of researching extreme events in all modern world climatic history in the past couple of centuries.”
Canada, Dominica, Italy, Morocco, Oman, Taiwan, Tunisia, Turkey, UAE and the United States broke or matched their national high temperature records, while 107 countries beat their monthly records, according to Mr Herrera’s Extreme Temperatures Around the World website.
Scientists have found growing evidence that many extreme weather events across the world, including tropical cyclones, hurricanes, floods and droughts, are aggravated by global warming-induced climate change.
And the number of global extreme weather disasters has increased nearly fivefold in the past 50 years, according to a major UN assessment.
The 10 most devastating climate events of 2021, including hurricanes in the US, China, and India, as well as floods in Australia, Europe and Canada, caused more than £12bn of financial devastation across the world, according to a report published late last year.
Other extreme weather events included the “worst sandstorm in a decade”, which hit Beijing in March, deadly flooding and landslides in Nepal and India in October, and Typhoon Rai in the Philippines, which killed at least 375 people last month.