2020 is in full “heat” with 2016 for the hottest year on record, scientists from NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced on January 14th.
Based on ocean temperature data from buoys, floats, and ships, as well as temperatures measured above ground at weather stations around the world, U.S. agencies conducted independent analyzes and came to a similar conclusion.
NASA’s analysis showed that 2020 was a little warmer, while NOAA’s showed that 2016 was still a little ahead. But the differences in those assessments are within the margins of error, "so it's effectively a statistical link," NASA climatologist Gavin Schmidt of the Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York City told a Jan. 14 news conference. .
NOAA climate scientist Russell Vose, who is also based in New York, described at the press conference the extreme heat that occurred on Earth last year, including a month-long heat wave in Siberia (SN: 21 / 12/20). Europe and Asia recorded the highest average temperatures recorded in 2020, and South America recorded the second warmest.
It is possible that 2020 temperatures in some areas would have been even higher had it not been for massive forest fires. Vose noted that smoke has risen in the stratosphere as a result of Australia’s intense fires in early 2020 may have slightly decreased temperatures in the northern hemisphere, although it is not yet known (SN: 15/12/20).
The oceanic climate pattern known as the southern El Niño oscillation can increase or decrease global temperatures, depending on whether it is in an El Niño or La Niña phase, respectively, Schmidt said (SN: 5/2/16). The El Niño phase was declining in early 2020 and a La Niña was beginning, so the overall impact of this pattern was silenced during the year. 2016, on the other hand, got a big increase in the temperature of El Niño. Without it, “2020 would be by far the warmest year on record,” he said.
But set in the big picture, these rankings "don't tell the whole story," Vose said. "The last six to seven years stand out above the rest of the record, suggesting the kind of rapid warming we're seeing. (And) each of the last four decades has been warmer than the last."