Despite El Niña cooling effect, 2020 essentially ties 2016 for hottest year on record

The key data sets tracking global weather trends have now compiled their 2020 data, and the composite picture shows that last year essentially tied 2016 for the hottest year on record, with information available back to 1850.

A synthesis report by Carbon Brief  noted how NASA data found that the average global temperature in 2020 was a tick higher than in 2016, while other analyses of the world’s temperature in 2020 found it averaged a bit lower than in 2016.  In every case, the 2020 average temperature estimates were so close to 2016 that they were not statistically distinguishable.

What is particularly notable about 2020’s hot weather was that it occurred despite the cooling effects of a La Nina event.  The exceptionally hot weather in 2016, by contrast, reflected a super El-Nino warming pattern, a cyclical ocean trend that temporarily warms the Earth independent of climate change.

The weather pattern for 2020 thus provides more evidence of the unmistakable trend towards global warming. According to NASA, the Earth’s seven hottest years have been the last seven years.  Further, the above information relates to surface temperatures; ocean temperatures in 2020 reached their highest level ever recorded, increasing significantly from their 2019 level.

A Washington Post story on this information described some of the devastating consequences this level of heat contributed to in 2020, characterizing it as “the year of fire”, with the U.S., for example, experiencing its first-ever gigafire.  Climate change also contributed to a record number of hurricanes in the Atlantic Ocean, and a dramatic temperature jump in the Arctic.  Carbon Brief reported that as global ice continued to melt sea levels rose to their highest level recorded.

Climate change is already here, and its consequences are right in front of us.  We need to act now.

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