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2019 Second Hottest Year Since Records Began, NOAA Says

Land and ocean temperatures have been above average for the past 43 years and nine of the 10 warmest years on record have come since 2005.

Glacier melting in Alaska.
Jan. 20, 2020
By Isabel Putinja
Glacier melting in Alaska.

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The hottest half-decade on record has just passed, with 2019 fin­ish­ing as the sec­ond hottest year too, accord­ing to the 2019 global cli­mate report released by the National Oceanic and Atmos­pheric Admin­is­tra­tion (NOAA).

Record-high land tem­per­a­tures were recorded in Aus­tralia and New Zealand, parts of cen­tral Europe, Asia, south­ern Africa, North Amer­ica and east­ern South Amer­ica. Addi­tion­ally, record-high ocean tem­per­a­tures were mea­sured in all four oceans.

The fact is that the planet is warm­ing, and every year, we add one extra data point to this graph.- Gavin Schmidt, NOAA

Accord­ing to data col­lected by NOAA, the aver­age tem­per­a­ture in 2019 was 0.95 °C (1.71 °F) above aver­age and 0.04 degrees Cel­sius (0.07 degrees Fahren­heit) less than the record set in 2016. 2016 was the hottest year since records began in 1880, with a tem­per­a­ture rise of 0.99 °C (1.78 °F) above-aver­age tem­per­a­tures.

I would say, notwith­stand­ing some sort of major, major geo­phys­i­cal event, it would be almost cer­tain that the [com­ing] decade will be warmer than the pre­vi­ous,” Deke Arndt, head of the mon­i­tor­ing branch at NOAA’s National Cen­ters for Envi­ron­men­tal Infor­ma­tion, told NPR.

See more: How Cli­mate Change Has Impacted the 2019 Har­vest

Over­all, land and ocean tem­per­a­tures have been above aver­age for the past 43 years and nine of the 10 warmest years on record have come since 2005.

The fact is that the planet is warm­ing, and every year, we add one extra data point to this graph,” the direc­tor of NASA’s God­dard Insti­tute for Space Stud­ies, Gavin Schmidt, told NPR. “[How­ever,] the main thing here is not really the rank­ing but is the con­sis­tency of the long-term trends that we’re see­ing.”

In a his­tor­i­cal con­text, 2019 global land and sea tem­per­a­tures were 1.15 °C (2.07 °F) above the aver­age of the 21-year span from 1880 to 1900 – which is often con­sid­ered a sur­ro­gate for pre-indus­trial con­di­tions.

Since 1981, one cen­tury after tem­per­a­tures began being recorded, the aver­age rate of tem­per­a­ture increase per decade has more than dou­bled, ris­ing from +0.07 °C (+0.13 °F) to +0.18 degrees (+0.32 °F).

In the past year, the global land sur­face tem­per­a­ture was 1.42 degrees Cel­sius (2.56 degrees Fahren­heit) above the 20th cen­tury aver­age, tying with 2015 as the sec­ond high­est.

Mean­while, the global sea sur­face tem­per­a­ture also came in sec­ond place in 2019 with a tem­per­a­ture that was 0.77 °C (1.39 °F) higher than the 20th-cen­tury aver­age.

NOAA’s analy­sis of global tem­per­a­ture data for 2019 is in line with those mea­sured by the World Mete­o­ro­log­i­cal Orga­ni­za­tion (WMO), NASA and Coper­ni­cus, the Euro­pean Union’s Earth Obser­va­tion Pro­gram, all of which con­cluded that 2019 was the sec­ond-hottest year on record.

The warm­ing up until now since the 1970s has been quite close to lin­ear,” Schmidt said. You’d imag­ine we’d cross 1.5 [degrees Cel­sius] in around 2035. But of course, that depends on what we do with emis­sions, and we’re not able to tell you look­ing at the past how soci­ety will react.”

Adopted in 2016, the Paris Agree­ment on cli­mate change has set the goal to limit the rise in global tem­per­a­tures to below 2 °C (3.6 °F) by 2030 and ide­ally to 1.5 °C (2.7 °F).




  • NOAA

  • NPR



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