Cuba records hottest month since 1951, straining electric grid

HAVANA, Aug 9 (Reuters) - Cuba in July recorded its hottest month since 1951, officials said, with the soaring temperatures on land and sea straining the country's decrepit electric grid and pressuring fragile ocean resources.

The average temperature in July hit 29.1 degrees Celsius (84.38 degrees Farenheit), Cuba's Meteorological Institute said. The previous record on the Caribbean island, known for its sultry summers, was set in August 2020.

Sea surface temperatures, too, have soared around the Caribbean and the tropical Atlantic Ocean, Cuban officials said, boosting the prospects for the development of tropical storms and hurricanes through November.

Cuban meteorologists expect 13 named storms during this year's hurricane season, up slightly from a previous forecast in May of 11.

The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) warned earlier this month that the warmer water around Florida could supercharge tropical storms and hurricanes, which build more energy over warmer waters.

The balmy ocean around Cuba also contributes to keeping night-time temperatures over land uncomfortably warm on the island, depriving residents of sleep and raising tensions in a country already stricken by food, fuel and medicine shortages.

The surface ocean temperature in and around the Florida Keys, just 100 miles north of Cuba, reached typical hot tub levels in late July, killing off coral and stressing sealife. Cuba's coral reefs have also suffered from rising temperatures, scientists have said.

The growing frequency and intensity of severe weather - both on land and in oceans - is symptomatic of global, human-driven climate change that is fueling extremes, experts in the field say, with heatwaves expected to persist through August. (Reporting by Dave Sherwood; Editing by Angus MacSwan)