Fever chart: Earth had its hottest decade on record in 2010s

Katie Ramirez
January 16, 2020

Scientists say climate change is likely to have contributed to severe weather in 2019 such as a heatwave in Europe and the hurricane that killed at least 50 people when it barrelled through the Bahamas in September. "We are confident that the world has warmed by about 1 °C since the late nineteenth century because different methods of working out the global temperature give very similar results". The World Meteorological Organization, which consolidates analysis from NOAA and NASA as well as datasets from the U.K.'s Met Office and the University of East Anglia's Climatic Research Unit, the European Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasts and its Copernicus Climate Change Service, and the Japan Meteorological Agency, also issued its findings Wednesday.

Past year saw two major heat waves hit Europe in June and July, with a new national record of 46C set in France on 28 June.

This sort of uncomfortable trade-off will cause ruffles around the world in coming decades as climate change presents an increasing challenge to politics-as-usual. New data released by NASA and NOAA illustrate the accelerating pace of climate change. "2019 concludes the warmest "cardinal" decade (those spanning years ending 0-9) in records that stretch back to the mid-19th century".

Five other global teams of monitoring scientists agreed, based on temperature measurements on the Earth's surface, while several satellite-based measurements said it was somewhere, from the hottest year to the second-hottest year.

"Each decade from the 1980s has been successively warmer than all the decades that came before".

Researchers say carbon emissions from human activities are the main cause of the sustained temperature rise seen in recent years. That's when people began pumping massive volumes of carbon into the atmosphere via fossil fuels, and we know that carbon-containing compounds are potent greenhouse gasses.

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"It is no surprise that 2019 was the second hottest year on record - nature has been persistently reminding us that we have to pick up the pace", said Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, leader of WWF´s global climate and energy practice, calling for dramatic measures to halt the warming trend. "We're like global doctors, constantly recording the Earth's vitals".

"The decade that just ended is clearly the warmest decade on record", NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) Director Gavin Schmidt said in the space agency's report.

The amount of heat in the ocean was also the highest ever recorded in 2019.

World Meteorological Organisation secretary-general Petteri Taalas said global temperatures had risen by about 1.1C since pre-industrial times, ocean heat was at record levels and, on the current emissions path, the world was heading for 3C-5C of warming by 2100. Warming of the climate system is seen across a range of climate indicators that build a holistic picture of change outside of our expectations from natural variability across the land, atmosphere, oceans and ice. This was the biggest increase in the last decade.

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