2020 pairs with 2016 as world's hottest year on record

Pablo Tucker
January 11, 2021

The higher temperatures helped spark large wildfires that led to increased Carbon dioxide emissions.

The Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S) has revealed that globally 2020 was tied with the previous warmest year 2016, making it the sixth in a series of exceptionally warm years starting in 2015, and 2011-2020 the warmest decade recorded.

Air temperature at a height of two metres for 2020, shown relative to its 1981-2010 average.

Parts of the Arctic and northern Siberia saw some temperatures some 3 to 6 degrees Celsius above normal.

The record warmth - which fueled deadly heat waves, droughts, intense wildfires and other environmental disasters around the world in 2020 - occurred despite the development in the second half of the year of La Nina, a global climate phenomenon marked by surface cooling across much of the equatorial Pacific Ocean.


The Copernicus annual report concluded that the decade 2010-2020 was the hottest in history, closing 2020 with an increase of 0.4 degrees Celsius compared to 2019. Past year topped the previous temperature record in Europe 2019 by a whopping 0.4 degrees Celsius (0.72 Fahrenheit), the European Union's Copernicus Climate Change Service said.

Some regions experienced exceptional warming.

There is one key difference between 2016 and 2020, El Niño.

In August, instruments documented the highest temperature ever reliably recorded, when a California heatwave pushed the temperature at Death Valley in the Mojave Desert up to 54.4C (129.92°F).

The forest fire season in the Arctic region was extremely active, with fires first recorded in May and continuing throughout the summer and even fall.


Temperature analysis checks are regularly carried out by European Union scientists, as well as by other scientific institutions like NASA.

"The extraordinary climate events of 2020 and the data from the Copernicus Climate Change Service show us that we have no time to lose", said Matthias Petschke, Director for Space in the European Commission, the EU's executive arm.

2020 was the warmest year in Europe, and winter 2019/20 I am Fall 2020 They were also the warmest.

"This is yet another reminder of the urgency of ambitious emissions reductions to prevent adverse climate impacts in the future". CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere rose at a rate of approximately 2.3 ppm/year, reaching a maximum of 413 ppm during May. While weather patterns linked to the La Niña event may boost growth in tropical forests and increase the amount of the gas that's absorbed, it won't be enough to slow the overall rise. This is 50% higher than the level of 278ppm that pertained in the late 18th Century as widespread industrial activity was just beginning.

"Since CO2 accumulates in the atmosphere like water in a bathtub, if we turn down the tap by 7%, the CO2 level just rises a bit more slowly", Stefan Rahmstorf, head of Earth system analysis at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, told AFP. Experts warn that greenhouse gas emissions must be reduced quickly, as these are the biggest contributor to man-made global warming. "This needs to happen within about the next 30 years if global warming is to be limited to 1.5C".


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