2021 Was Earth’s Fifth Hottest Year, Scientists Say

The annual average temperature in 2021 exceeded the modern average by 0.3 ºC, scientists at Europe’s Copernicus climate change service found.
Jan. 17, 2022
Costas Vasilopoulos

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2021 was Earth’s fifth-hottest year on record, mar­gin­ally warmer than 2015 and 2018, accord­ing to the European Union’s Copernicus cli­mate change ser­vice (C3S).

Despite tem­per­a­tures remain­ing rel­a­tively low through the first five months of the year, the globe expe­ri­enced unusu­ally warm weather with soar­ing tem­per­a­tures from June until October, lead­ing to an annual aver­age tem­per­a­ture of 0.3 °C above the 1991 to 2020 ref­er­ence period and 1.2 °C above the pre-indus­trial lev­els of 1850 to 1900, the Copernicus sci­en­tists said.

Carbon diox­ide and methane con­cen­tra­tions are con­tin­u­ing to increase year on year and with­out signs of slow­ing down. These green­house gases are the main dri­vers of cli­mate change.- Vincent-Henri Peuch, direc­tor, Copernicus atmos­pheric mon­i­tor­ing ser­vice

Europe, in par­tic­u­lar, suf­fered its hottest sum­mer ever in 2021. The con­ti­nent expe­ri­enced a record-break­ing tem­per­a­ture of 48.8°C in Sicily (pend­ing offi­cial con­fir­ma­tion), severe floods that swept sev­eral cen­tral European coun­tries and hun­dreds of wild­fires that dev­as­tated thou­sands of hectares of forests and agri­cul­tural land in the Mediterranean basin, mainly impact­ing Italy, Greece and Turkey.

Elsewhere, China announced that the past year was the country’s hottest on record, while the west of the United States and Canada suf­fered an abnor­mal heat­wave in June and July with tem­per­a­tures exceed­ing pre­vi­ous record highs by 5 °C.

See Also:Meteorologists Confirm Record-High Arctic Temperature

These events are a stark reminder of the need to change our ways, take deci­sive and effec­tive steps toward a sus­tain­able soci­ety and work towards reduc­ing net car­bon emis­sions,” Carlo Buontempo, the CS3 direc­tor, said.

According to the Copernicus rank­ing, the planet’s two hottest years on record were 2016 and 2020. Furthermore, the last seven years have been the warmest by a clear mar­gin” since records began, con­firm­ing the upward curve of global tem­per­a­ture rises.


The 2021 analy­sis, show­ing that glob­ally the warmest years by far were recorded in the last seven years, is a reminder of the con­tin­ued increase in global tem­per­a­tures and the urgent neces­sity to act,” Mauro Facchini, head of Earth obser­va­tion for the European Commission, said.

Greenhouse gas emis­sions also broke new records in 2021, with methane con­tin­u­ing to increase very sub­stan­tially” and car­bon diox­ide emis­sions reach­ing new highs with 414 ppm (parts per mil­lion) per year, up by 2.4 ppm from 2020.

The high­est growth rates of CO2 emis­sions, how­ever, were observed in 2015 and 2016 (by 3.0 ppm and 2.9 ppm, respec­tively) and were asso­ci­ated with the El Niño cli­matic phe­nom­e­non.

The steep rise in atmos­pheric methane lev­els has always puz­zled sci­en­tists. This poten­tially harm­ful green­house gas can emanate from many sources, includ­ing the nat­ural processes of wet­lands, live­stock farm­ing and fos­sil fuel exploita­tion, mak­ing it hard to pin­point the exact rea­sons for the surge in emis­sions.

Carbon diox­ide and methane con­cen­tra­tions are con­tin­u­ing to increase year on year and with­out signs of slow­ing down,” said Vincent-Henri Peuch, direc­tor of the Copernicus atmos­phere mon­i­tor­ing ser­vice. These green­house gases are the main dri­vers of cli­mate change.”

The find­ings of the Copernicus cli­mate change ser­vice are expected to be ver­i­fied by atmos­pheric data released by other mete­o­ro­log­i­cal ser­vices around the world in the com­ing weeks.


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