Last year was by a narrow margin the hottest ever on record, according to Nasa, with the climate crisis stamping its mark on 2020 through sky-high temperatures, unprecedented wildfires and colossal hurricanes.
The average global land and ocean temperature last year was the highest ever measured, Nasa announced a fortnight ago, edging out the previous record set in 2016 by less than a tenth of a degree.
Due to slightly different methods used, the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration judged 2020 as fractionally cooler than 2016, while the UK Met Office also put 2020 in a close second place. However, the European Union’s climate observation program puts the two years in a dead heat.
Regardless of these minor differences, all the datasets have underlined the long-term heating up of the planet due to the burning of fossil fuels, deforestation and other human activities.
The world’s seven warmest years on record have now all happened since 2014, with the 10 hottest all taking place in the last 15 years. There have now been 44 consecutive years in which global temperatures have been above the 20th-century average.
Scientists said average temperatures will keep edging upwards due to the huge amount of greenhouse gases being released into the earth’s atmosphere. The record, or near-record, heat came despite the moderately cooling influence of La Niña, a periodic climate event. “While the current La Niña event will likely end up affecting 2021 temperature more than 2020, it definitely had a cooling effect on the last quarter of the year,” said Zeke Hausfather, a climate scientist at Berkeley Earth, which found 2020 was narrowly the second hottest year on record.
The climate crisis is drastically altering environmental processes across the globe, as the scientific analyses of 2020 show.
Rising heat in the atmosphere and water is causing glaciers to disappear, sea levels increasing, as well as helping fuel larger and more destructive storms.
Wildfires, fuelled by vegetation parched by prolonged heat, ravaged huge areas of western America and Australia last year, while the Arctic experienced overwhelming temperatures well above average that saw a lot of its ice melt at an unprecedented rate.
The UK Met Office has already predicted that 2021 will also be among one of the hottest ever recorded, with the world now “one step closer to the limits stipulated by the Paris agreement”, said Colin Morice, senior scientist at the Met Office.
In November, Governments across the world will meet in Scotland for a crucial Nations Climate Change conference aimed at building upon the Paris deal made in 2015, which committed countries to avoiding a disastrous global temperature rise of 1.5C from pre-industrial levels.
Last week, the USA agreed to rejoin the Paris deal, showing that President Biden is taking swift action to tackle the climate emergency and his administration are ensuring that as they meet the demands of science, while he’s also empowering American workers and businesses to lead a clean energy revolution, it shows big changes that will help everyone.
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