2020 has officially been one of the hottest years on record, a sign of endless global warming, according to a handful of analyzes published by scientists around the world last week.
The record heat comes after a year punctuated by climatic disasters: historic heat waves, hurricanes and fires.
“This is a clear indication that the global signal from man-made climate change is now as powerful as the force of nature,” said Petteri Taalas, secretary general of the World Meteorological Organization.
Analyzes do not agree on whether 2020 was the warmest year ever recorded. A NASA report released Thursday found that 2020 beats 2016 at close range as the hottest year ever, effectively link the record. Another analysis, published Thursday by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, concluded that 2020 was a close second to 2016. And last week, the European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service determined 2020 linked with 2016 as the hottest year.
The findings differ slightly because research groups apply different techniques to gather a global picture of temperatures based on temperature observations from thousands of weather stations.
The 2020 heat record is just the latest in a series of years hit with more heat.
“The last seven years have been the warmest seven years on record,” said Lesley Ott, a NASA researcher. So, regardless of where the individual years fall, “the consistency of the last few years being the hottest on record is very, very clear,” he said.
For all of these analyzes, “the difference between 2020 and 2016 is smaller than the uncertainty in the record,” Zeke Hausfather, a climate scientist with the independent research group Berkeley Earth, told BuzzFeed News by email. “Then it’s actually a tie for the hottest.”
2020 has been marked by sweltering heat for most of the year, only faded towards the end by the phenomenon of natural cooling, La Niña.
“The exceptional heat of 2020 is despite a La Niña event, which has a temporary cooling effect,” Taalas said.
Climate change will bring other major heat records in 2020.
Siberia has experienced a long heat wave and the Arctic city of Verkhoyansk has made its hottest day on record, reaching 100 degrees Fahrenheit on June 20th. concluded.
2020 was the hottest year on record in Europe, reaching 1.6 degrees Celsius above the average temperature from 1981 to 2010, according to the Copernicus analysis. 2019 previously held this record, where observed temperatures were 0.4 degrees Celsius higher than the same period.
Last year also marked the best-known hurricane season in the Atlantic Ocean, and also historically would be damaging forest fires in the western United States. The result is that the US has experienced its own most billion-dollar catastrophes in 2020. The year also started with some of the the worst bush fires in the history of Australia. In addition, carbon dioxide levels continued to rise in the atmosphere, hitting a new high of 413 parts per million last May.
Meanwhile, the pandemic has triggered an economic shock that has caused US emissions fell an estimated 10.3% in 2020, according to a preliminary analysis by research organization Rhodium Group, part of a the broadest downward trend in emissions worldwide last year. But a brief drop in emissions will not be enough to curb the global warming trend – which will require long-term emission reductions.
“The vast majority of the warming we see is due to human emissions of greenhouse gases,” Ott said.