New data from NASA indicates that last year was tied as the hottest year on record across the globe, equaling the year 2016.
Using the 1951-1980 baseline for global temperature, NASA said that the globe was 1.84 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than normal.
NOAA, which uses a different baseline of 1901-2000, and does not infer polar temperatures, found that 2020 was second behind 2016 as hottest year recorded on Earth. Both agencies agree, however, that greenhouse emissions are causing Earth’s overall temperature to steadily rise, which is also causing sea levels to rise.
“The last seven years have been the warmest seven years on record, typifying the ongoing and dramatic warming trend,” said NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) director Gavin Schmidt. “Whether one year is a record or not is not really that important – the important things are long-term trends. With these trends, and as the human impact on the climate increases, we have to expect that records will continue to be broken.”
NASA said that while the general trend is that Earth is warming, individual events can impact the global temperature. And despite two major events that would have worked against the Earth being hotter than normal, the year still managed to be one of the warmest years ever.
In 2020, massive wildfires in Australia caused smoke to shoot 18 miles into the sky, which blocked sunlight. The reduced sunlight could have had a slight cooling effect.
Also, El Nino years are generally warmer. The year 2020 reached record levels despite not having a boost from an El Nino, which is a naturally occurring cycle of heat exchange between the ocean and atmosphere, NASA said.
“The previous record warm year, 2016, received a significant boost from a strong El Nino. The lack of a similar assist from El Nino this year is evidence that the background climate continues to warm due to greenhouse gases,” said Schmidt.