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2020 officially Earth’s 2nd-hottest year on record

2016 remains the only hotter year according to NOAA
Well-above average warmth, especially in northern hemisphere.
Well-above average warmth, especially in northern hemisphere.(NOAA)
Published: Jan. 14, 2021 at 4:10 PM EST|Updated: Jan. 14, 2021 at 4:27 PM EST
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - New research and analysis by scientists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration officially find 2020 the second-hottest year on record for Earth, just barely behind 2016.

The average land and ocean surface temperature was 1.76°F across the world. This would be 0.04 of a degree F cooler than the 2016 record.

A month-by-month animation of temperatures for January through December 2020 compared to the...
A month-by-month animation of temperatures for January through December 2020 compared to the 1981–2010 average, with warm anomalies (difference from the average temperature) of some areas in red and cool anomalies in blue. The final slide shows the 2020 average. (NOAA Climate.gov, using NOAA NCEI data)(NOAA)

A CLOSER LOOK

  • 2020 marks the 44th consecutive year (since 1977) with global land and ocean temperatures above the 20th century average.
  • The seven warmest years have occurred since 2014; the 10 warmest years have occurred since 2005.
  • The globally averaged land surface temperature for 2020 was 2.86°F above the 20th century average—the highest among all years in the 141-year record.

NASA FINDS 2020 HOTTEST ON RECORD

Though NOAA’s data says 2020 was the second-hottest on record, other agencies like NASA had 2020 as tied for the hottest on record. NASA scientists determined that 2020 had tied 2016 for the first-place spot.

Other agencies like the United Kingdom Met Office ranked 2020 as the second-warmest year on record.

Either way, data showed the year was virtually tied or very close to being the hottest on record.

DECREASING POLAR ICE

Recent years have found a concerning trend in decreasing Arctic sea ice extent (coverage). This past year was no exception to that trend. The 2020 average Arctic sea ice extend was approximately 3.93 million square miles and ties 2016 for the smallest on record. This makes the past five years the smallest Arctic annual extents on record.

Climate scientists are concerned with this trend because sea ice’s white surface acts to reflect up to 80 percent of incoming sunlight, deflecting additional energy away from the planet. Less ice present means the ocean absorbs more heat leading to more warming of the planet.

WARMING TREND SEEN IN OUR HOMETOWNS

The warming trend globally has been found right here in our hometowns. Just this past year, both Roanoke and Lynchburg had their warmest years on record.

Roanoke's average decadal temperature continues to rise.
Roanoke's average decadal temperature continues to rise.(Climate Central)

This has been the common trend in Virginia with warming weather seen in recent decades. There remains no sign of this trend ending in the new decade.

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