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Friday, May 17, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Earth Sees Second Hottest Year on Record in 2020

Though by NASA's numbers, 2020 tied 2016 as the hottest in 141 years of recordkeeping.

(CN) - Planet Earth experienced the second-warmest year on record in 2020, according to scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. 

Only 2016 was hotter in the 141-year record kept by the scientific agency although NASA, which partners with NOAA, said the similarities between temperature records in 2016 and 2020 mean the two years are effectively tied for the record. 

“The last seven years do show the rapid warming we are seeing,” said Russ Voss during a Thursday press briefing on NOAA's report. “It is warmer now than it has been in the past 2,000 years.”

The warming trend in 2020 was concentrated in Europe and Asia, where average temperatures exceeded the 20th-century average by as much 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit. The past seven years in Europe have been the seven warmest on record for the continent and show no signs of cooling off. 

In Asia, the ten warmest years have all occurred since 2002. 

“The big story this year was Siberia,” Voss said. “Much of the year was 18 degrees above the average.”

This past year a town in Siberia reported a temperature of 104 degrees, which if confirmed would be the highest temperature ever recorded in the region, which has never recorded a temperature above 104 degrees. 

Aside from the increasingly incontrovertible evidence of a warming planet, climate scientists said natural disasters like hurricanes and wildfires were on the increase in the past year. 

“We are seeing a change in indirect effects,” said Gavin Schmidt of NASA, during the same press briefing.

Droughts were more prolonged and frequent causing soil drying, which can harm agricultural operations.

On Thursday, the U.S. Drought Monitor released its weekly report showing that moderate to exceptional drought covers roughly 37% of the contiguous United States, affecting approximately 114 million people, or one-third of the population. 

The year 2020 witnessed the highest number of tropical storms in the Atlantic (30) on record, breaking the record of 28 set in 2005. Historical records date back to the 1830s. 

There were 13 hurricanes in the region alone. 

Globally, the number of storms was also at a record high. 

“There were 103 named storms in 2020, which ties the record from 2018,” Voss said. 

Relatively speaking, North America and the United States was spared record warmth, although the lower 48 did record the fifth-highest average temperature on record. The North American continent reached it’s 10th highest average temperature on record.

However, just because one area of the globe doesn’t witness record temperatures, does not affect the overall warming pattern on Planet Earth. 

“You don’t have to see a record in any particular place to get a warm year,” Voss said. 

Africa and Australia both posted the fourth-warmest year on record for those continents and South America reached the second-highest average temperature in the 111-year record. 

Overall, the pattern of a warming planet is abundantly clear, and the warming trend is accelerating through the past decade, the scientists said. 

“This is the warmest decade in the historical record without any exception,” Schmidt said. 

These warming trends are unlikely to abate even if the world succeeds in weaning itself off of fossil fuels and dramatically curtails the amount of greenhouse gases that are pumped into the atmosphere. 

“Even if we ceased all activities related to the climate tomorrow, we wouldn’t see a decrease in average temperatures for many, many decades,” Schmidt said. 

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Categories / Environment

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