As for the Earth’s global surface temperature, 2020 has been warm – making 2016 the hottest year on record, according to a climate analysis released Thursday by NASA and the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
The Earth’s average temperature was 1.02 degrees Celsius (1.84 degrees Fahrenheit) warmer than the baseline average for 1951-1980, according to the agencies report (PDF) found. 2020 edged 2016 ahead by a small amount that was within the margin of error, making it a tie.
More significant than a record year, however, is the fact that the global temperature spike in 2020 is consistent with an upward trend seen for decades.
The Earth’s average temperature has risen by 2 degrees Fahrenheit (1.2 degrees Celsius) since the end of the 19th century, with a dramatic increase in temperature in recent years.
“The past seven years have been the hottest seven years on record since 1880,” Lesley Ott, NASA atmospheric meteorologist, told Al Jazeera. “So not only do we see 2020 as a very hot year, but it’s something that we have seen continue and continue. We have seen this steady rise in temperatures over the past decades.
The report was released six days before US President-elect Joe Biden was inaugurated. Unlike his predecessor, President Donald Trump, Biden has pledged to return to the Paris climate agreement and do more to tackle climate change and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The United States Environmental Protection Agency wasted precious time under the Trump administration, his former acting deputy administrator Stan Meiburg told Al Jazeera last month.
Trump weakened emission rules for power plants dating back to President Barack Obama’s time, and he brought a generally pro-industry vision to relax mercury emission caps, fuel economy standards. and wetland conservation programs.
“The most disappointing aspects of the past four years are the lost opportunities to look back rather than move forward,” said Meiburg.
The analysis by NASA and NOAA also looked at regional trends.
“The effects differ a bit from region to region, but these extremes – more extreme drought, more extreme storms and flooding – these are some of the big things that worry us,” Ott said.
Asia has recorded its 10 warmest years since 2002 and 2020 saw the highest temperature in its 111 years of record keeping. Europe also recorded its hottest year on record in 2020.
Africa experienced its fourth warmest year on record in 2020, and Cyclone Gati – which struck in November – was the most violent cyclone to make landfall in Somalia with maximum wind speeds of 185 km / h.
Globally, there have been 103 tropical storms and 45 hurricanes. Super Typhoon Goni, which hit the Philippines in October and November, was one of the strongest typhoons to make landfall in history, with recorded maximum wind speeds of 315 km / h.
In South America, 2020 was the second hottest year on record after 2015.
“Some regions are heating up faster than others,” Ott explained. “The high attitudes of the northern hemisphere, of the polar regions, these are heating up much faster than the rest of the planet because we are losing sea ice, we are melting sea ice, and that is actually creating a darker surface that traps heat more in the earth system instead of returning it back to space.
The increase in global temperature has also had an impact on natural disasters. The Atlantic hurricane season saw the most tropical cyclones on record in 2020, and scientists have recorded 30 storms and 13 hurricanes, the most since official records began in 1851.
While the coronavirus pandemic has seen people stay at home and slow down car and plane travel, this drop in carbon dioxide emissions is unlikely to make much of a difference as “global CO2 concentrations have continued to increase. increase, and since warming is related to cumulative emissions, the amount of avoided warming will be minimal, ”according to the report.
These upward trends in emissions and rising temperatures, while in line with forecasts, nonetheless have “alarming” results, Ott said, including “more frequent fires, more frequent flooding, stronger storms. and more intense ”.
“Some of these things were once academic and people struggled to connect with them,” she says. “Now we see this in our daily life. And so to me that’s really what’s alarming – not just the constant warming, but the effects we’re starting to see all over the world as well.