2019 was the second-hottest year since records began, the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) said recently, warning that heat was likely to lead to more extreme weather events like the Australian bushfires in 2020 and beyond.
Researchers said the long-term trend towards warmer temperatures is due to human-caused increase in levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
And scientists say they see no end to the way man-made climate change keeps shattering records.
The data from the Geneva-based WMO crunches several datasets including from Nasa, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the UK Met Office. It showed that the average global temperature in 2019 was 1.1 degree Celsius (34°F) above pre-industrial levels.
“Australia had its hottest, driest year on record in 2019, setting the scene for the massive bushfires which were so devastating to people and property, wildlife, ecosystems and the environment,” said WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas.
“Unfortunately, we expect to see much extreme weather throughout 2020 and the coming decades, fuelled by record levels of heat-trapping greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.”
The hottest year on record was in 2016, the WMO said, due to the warming impact of a strong El Nino event.
“The decade that just ended is clearly the warmest decade on record,” Gavin Schmidt of Nasa said in a statement. “Every decade since the 1960s clearly has been warmer than the one before.”
In addition, 2019 was the 43rd consecutive year with above-average land and ocean temperatures, according to modern record-keeping, which started in 1880.
Last year was the hottest year for ocean temperatures ever recorded. Polar sea ice continued to decline in 2019, with Arctic and Antarctic oceans recording their second-smallest average sea ice coverage. The Arctic region is warming at a rate three times higher than the rest of the planet.
The 2010s averaged 14.7C worldwide, or 0.8C higher than the 20th-century average and more than one-fifth of a degree Celsius warmer than the previous decade, which had been the hottest on record, according to the NOAA.
The decade had eight of the 10 hottest years on record. The only other years in the top 10 were 2005 and 1998.
Nasa and NOAA also calculated that 2019 was the second hottest year in the 140 years of record-keeping. Five other global teams of monitoring scientists agreed, based on temperature readings taken on Earth’s surface, while various satellite-based measurements said it was anywhere from the hottest year on record to the third hottest.
Nasa said that overall, Earth is now about 1.2 degrees C hotter since the beginning of the industrial age, a number that is important because in 2015, global leaders adopted a goal of preventing 1.5 C of warming since the rise of big industry in the mid- to late 1800s. That perhaps shows the global goal can’t be easily achieved.
Human-caused climate change is responsible for the long-term warming – it’s responsible for why the 2010s were warmer than 2000s, which were warmer than the 1990s.
Several scientists said the coming years could be even hotter, which might knock these years out of the record books.
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