2020 one of three warmest years on record: WMO

Katie Ramirez
January 17, 2021

The Earth's global average surface temperature in 2020 has tied with 2016 to go down as the warmest year on record, the US' National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) said in a statement on Thursday.

According to the scientists at NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) in NY, with the continuing long-term warming trend of the planet, last year's globally averaged temperature was 1.02 degrees Celsius (°C) warmer than the baseline 1951-1980 mean.

It said the average global temperature in 2020 was about 14.9 degrees Celsius - a figure 1.2 C above the pre-industrial (1850-1900) level.

As La Nina and El Nino's effects on average global temperatures are typically strongest in the second year of the event, the extent to which the ongoing cooling effects of La Nina in 2021 may temporarily weaken the overall warming trend during this year remains to be seen, according to the WMO. "Whether one year is a record or not is not really that important - the important things are long-term trends".

"Understanding such long-term climate trends is essential for the safety and quality of human life, allowing humans to adapt to the changing environment in ways such as planting different crops, managing our water resources and preparing for extreme-weather events", it adds.

What this effectively means is that, while every year won't be warmer than the last, records will occur at regular intervals.

Scientists have learned that climate change impacts are most noticeable in the Arctic, where even minor weather differences can have a significant influence. ( Alexander Nemenov/AFP via Getty Images)The year 2020 shaped up to be one of the three warmest years on record, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said, confirming its earlier projections released in December.

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"It is remarkable that temperatures in 2020 were virtually on a par with 2016, when we saw one of the strongest El Nino warming events on record", said WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas.

The conclusion on 2020 was determined through the WMO's consolidation of worldwide datasets from the United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA); NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies (NASA GISS); the United Kingdom's Met Office Hadley Centre and the University of East Anglia's Climatic Research Unit (HadCRUT); and reanalysis datasets from the European Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasts and its Copernicus Climate Change Service, and the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA). Average temperature that year was 1.71 degree above the 20th century average.

Arctic sea ice was also decreased to near record lows by above-average temperatures, NOAA scientists reported.

Greenhouse gas emissions in the United States, the second- leading source of the pollution after China, fell more than 10% a year ago, the largest drop in the post-World War II era, as the coronavirus crippled the economy, the Rhodium Group said this week.

Vincent-Henri Peuch, Director of the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS), said: "While carbon dioxide concentrations had risen slightly less in 2020 than in 2019, this is no cause for complacency".

"2021 needs to be a year of climate action because failure is not an option". He completed his climate change and development course at the University of East Anglia (United Kingdom) and an executive program on sustainability leadership at Yale University (USA).

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