While meteorological agencies may rank of 2020 differently in terms of hottest years, they all agree that it’s part of the warmest decade on record.
While the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) ranks 2020 and 2016 as the warmest year and others, including the UK Meteorological Office, places it second and third, they all agree that it is part of the warmest decade on record.
2020’s temperature and ranking
While the five key global agencies may differ in their rankings, they all place 2020 in the top three warmest year on record.
According to NASA and the European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service, 2020 is tied with 2016 as the warmest year. Meanwhile, the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Met Office ranked the year second.
Only the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) had 2020 as the third warmest year. However, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) explained that the differences between the datasets are all within the margin of error.
WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas pointed out: “The exceptional heat of 2020 is despite a La Niña event, which has a temporary cooling effect. It is remarkable that temperatures in 2020 were virtually on a par with 2016, when we saw one of the strongest El Niño warming events on record. This is a clear indication that the global signal from human-induced climate change is now as powerful as the force of nature.”
Under the Paris Agreement, governments pledged to keep the global temperature increase to below 1.5C this century. In 2020, global temperatures rose 1.2C above the pre-industrial figure.
NOAA explained that the globally-averaged land surface temperature for 2020 was actually 1.59C above the 20th Century average, the highest in the agency’s 141-year record and overtook the previous record set in 2016 by 0.05C.
Dr. Colin Morice, senior scientist in the Met Office’s climate monitoring team, said: “2020 has proved to be another notable year in the global climate record. With all datasets showing a continued rise in global average temperature, the latest figures take the world one step closer to the limits stipulated by the Paris Agreement.”
Met Office reports and outlook for UK
In January 2020, the Met Office released a report stating that the last decade was the second hottest in the UK in the past 100 years.
According to the Met Office, the previous decade set eight new high-temperature records, four of which were set last year alone, including highest winter and summer temperatures ever recorded. Dr. Mark McCarthy from the Met Office in Exeter, said it was “a consequence of our warming climate”.
Additionally, a Met Office study reported last June indicated that the UK may experience regular temperature of up to 40C by 2100 if carbon emissions stay at high levels.
According to the researchers, there is an “increasing likelihood” of going beyond this number due to the human influence on the climate. They mentioned that under the worst emissions scenario, temperatures could reach 40C every three and a half years.
The Met Office expects 2021 to be a little cooler globally than 2020 but will still be one of the top six warmest years. It explained that the La Niña weather phenomenon will push the temperature down, making 2021 a bit cooler but greenhouse gases will still influence global temperature, making it still one of the warmest years.
Researchers expect global temperatures to be around 1C warmer than the pre-industrial era, marking the seventh consecutive year close to or above this mark.
Met Office forecasts indicate that the Earth’s temperature for 2021 will likely be between 0.91C and 1.15C above levels in the years from 1850-1900 with a central estimate of 1.03C.