Climate: 2020, the hottest year of the industrial age

2020 joined 2016 on the highest step of the hottest years in the world, in the apotheosis of a decade of record temperatures which still testifies to “The emergency” to act against global warming, according to the European Copernicus Service on Climate Change (C3S).

The year 2020 ended 1.25 ° C above the pre-industrial period, just like 2016. But “It should be noted that 2020 equals the record of 2016 despite a cooling of La Niña”, insists the C3S service.

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While 2016, it was marked by a strong El Niño episode, a natural oceanic phenomenon that causes temperatures to rise. According to NASA and the World Weather Organization (WMO), El Niño would have contributed between 0.1 and 0.2 ° C to the global temperature of 2016.

0.2 degrees more per decade since the 1970s

“It’s pretty clear that in the absence of the impacts of El Niño and La Niña on temperature from year to year, 2020 would be the hottest year on record.”, assured Zeke Hausfather, climatologist at the Breakthrough Institute, noting that the world has gained 0.2 ° C per decade since the 1970s.

The WMO, which is due to publish consolidated figures shortly by combining data from several official agencies, said at the end of December that 2020 would rank among the three hottest years.

In Europe, marked by an exceptional heat wave, the year 2020 was largely the hottest, 0.4 ° C above 2019, and 1.6 ° C above the reference period 1981-2010 , more than 2.2 ° C above the pre-industrial period.

The hottest decade

This warming is already exceeding the objectives of the Paris Agreement. But these goals are for the entire planet and it is known that the lands are warming faster than the oceans and that some regions are warming much faster, such as the Arctic, where temperatures in 2020 were 6 ° C above the reference mean.

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In this same arctic region, particularly in Siberia, the year was also marked by a season of forest fires. “Exceptionally dynamic”, releasing 244 megatonnes of CO2, i.e. “More than a third more than the 2019 record”.

Beyond a single isolated year, the 2015-2020 period is the hottest on record and the last decade (2011-2020) is also the hottest since the start of the industrial era.

Exceptional natural disasters

“It is no surprise that the past decade has been the hottest on record, and it reminds us once again of the urgency to ambitiously cut emissions in order to prevent adverse climate effects in the future.”, underlined in a press release Carlo Buontempo, director of C3S.

These harmful effects are already being felt across the planet, from melting sea ice to exceptional heat waves, through torrential precipitation or the last record hurricane season in the Caribbean.


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