2020 was officially one of the hottest years on record, a sign of non-stop global warming, according to a handful of analyzes published by scientists around the world over the past week.
The heat record comes after a year marked by climate disasters: historic heat waves, hurricanes and wildfires.
“This is a clear indication that the human-induced global signal of climate change is now as powerful as the force of nature,” Petteri Taalas, secretary general of the World Meteorological Organization, said in a statement.
Analyzes disagree on whether 2020 was the hottest year on record. A NASA report released Thursday found that 2020 surpassed 2016 by just as much as the warmest year, effectively tying 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 tied with 2016 as the warmest year.
The findings differ slightly because the research groups apply various techniques to gather a global picture of temperatures based on temperature observations from thousands of weather stations.
The 2020 heat record is the latest in a series of years with more heat.
“The last seven years have been the warmest seven years on record,” said Lesley Ott, a NASA researcher. So no matter where individual years fall, “the consistency of recent years in being the warmest on record is very, very clear,” he said.
For all of these analyzes, “the difference between 2020 and 2016 is less than the uncertainty of the record,” Zeke Hausfather, a climate scientist at the independent research group Berkeley Earth, told BuzzFeed News. “So it’s effectively a draw for the warmer ones.”
2020 was marked by the heat of the bottles for most of the year, it was only stuffed towards the end by the phenomenon of natural cooling, La Niña.
“The exceptional heat of 2020 is despite an event in La Niña, which has a temporary cooling effect,” Taalas said.
Climate change drove other large heat records in 2020.
Siberia experienced a heat wave for months and the Arctic city of Verkhoyansk recorded the hottest day on record, reaching 100 degrees Fahrenheit on June 20th. “This event would have been effectively impossible without human-induced climate change,” a team of scientists he concluded.
2020 was the warmest year on record in Europe, reaching 1.6 degrees Celsius above the average temperature from 1981 to 2010, according to Copernicus’ analysis. In 2019 it previously had 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, as well as historically harmful forest fire series in the western US. The result was that the US experienced his most billion-dollar disasters in 2020. The year also kicked off with some of the the worst fires in Australian history. In addition, carbon dioxide levels continued to rise in the atmosphere, reaching a high of 413 parts per million last May.
Meanwhile, the pandemic caused an economic shock that caused US emissions will fall by approximately 10.3% in 2020, according to a preliminary analysis by research organization Rhodium Group, which is part of a the largest downward trend in emissions worldwide last year. But a brief decline 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.