2020 in Review: Global Temperature Rankings

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Climate Central combined data from both NOAA and NASA to reveal the global temperature rankings compared to an early industrial baseline. Averaging the datasets shows that 2020 was 2.25°F (or 1.25°C) over the 1881-1910 baseline average.  

Long term global temperature trends indicate that the Earth is warming and at an unprecedented rate. The six warmest years have occurred since 2015 and the top 10 warmest years have all happened since 2000. In general, a stable climate is characterized by a balance of warm and cold years. However, the frequency at which we are setting new annual warm records, combined with the longer warming trend of global temperatures over the past decades, adds to the multiple lines of evidence of human-induced climate change.

Furthermore, 2020’s ranking is significant because it occurred during a developing La Niña. La Niña and its opposite, El Niño, correspond to variations in water temperatures in the Pacific Ocean. These usually result in a boost (El Niño) or a dip (La Niña) in extra heat added to the atmosphere. According to NOAA, when comparing 2020 with similar La Niña years of the recent past (1970, 1995, 2007, and 2010), 2020 was about about 0.5°F warmer than the next warmest year (2010). This means that more recent La Niña years (and El Niño years) are much warmer than they were in the past 70 years. Climate change is the main culprit for this, as greenhouse gases accumulated in the atmosphere and warmed up the planet over the decades.

The warming of our planet will continue as long as we emit greenhouse gases. While emissions briefly dipped in the spring during global shutdowns, they quickly resumed their upward course in much of the world. More record-breaking warm years are expected in the future, and in order to achieve a stable climate, we must reduce and keep our global carbon emissions low—permanently. 


With the release of new global temperature data, Ed Hawkins has added a new 2020 stripe to his famous warming stripes pattern. With a temperature anomaly of +2°F, the new stripe will be a dark red, following the warming trend of the past decade. 

New CO2 Charting Shows Speed of Recent Increase

Speed kills. The graph showing how much carbon dioxide levels have climbed since humans began burning fossil fuels may be the most iconic in climate science. But it doesn’t tell half the story. With the help of neural networks, Climate Central scientists updated the classic analysis to show how fast CO2 levels have changed over the past 800,000 years. The result is a jaw-dropping skyscraper of a chart that shows how dramatic human influence has been. Visit the Capital Weather Gang/The Washington Post to see it and read more: https://www.washingtonpost.com/weather/2021/01/12/carbon-skyscraper-rapid-climate-change/

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February 07 2021 06:30 pm

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