Earth just experienced one of the warmest years on record

Katie Ramirez
February 8, 2019

The past five years are, collectively, the warmest years in modern records.

The last four years were the hottest since global temperature records began, the United Nations confirmed Wednesday in an analysis that it said was a "clear sign of continuing long-term climate change".

An analysis of five worldwide datasets by the WMO showed that the global average surface temperature in 2018 was approximately 1° above the pre-industrial starting point.

Not content with being the fourth-hottest year since 1880, when it first became possible to collect reliable and consistent global temperatures, in the USA 2018 was the wettest year in 35 years and the third wettest since precipitation records began in 1895. The WMO also said that the 20 warmest years in history all occurred within the last 22 years.

"The long-term temperature trend is far more important than the ranking of individual years, and that trend is an upward one", WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas said in a statement.

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The British office along with NOAA, NASA and the World Meteorological Organization analyze global temperatures in slightly different ways, but they all came to the same conclusion Wednesday: 2018 was the fourth-warmest year on record behind 2016, 2015 and 2017.

Due to the dynamic character of global weather patterns, not every place of the Earth experiences the same levels of warming.

The British Met Office said temperatures could rise to 1.5C above pre-industrial times, for instance if a natural El Nino weather event adds a burst of heat. "You do tend to see some bouncing up and down superimposed upon a long-term trend", Deke Arndt, who leads global monitoring at NOAA's National Centers for Environmental Information, said during the news conference.

Schmidt attributes this warming to be largely driven by increased emissions into the atmosphere of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases caused by human activities. It predicted that global temperatures will continue to rise over the next five years, with a 10% chance that we'll breach the mark of 1.5 °C above preindustrial levels.

NASA's global temperature analyses use surface temperature recordings from 6,300 weather stations around the world, incorporating ship- and buoy-based measurements of ocean surface temperatures as well as measurements of surface temperatures from Antarctic research outposts.

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