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2020 was the hottest year ever

2020 was Europe’s hottest year, but the overall trend is far more worrying.

Scientists at the European Union’s Copernicus earth observation programme believe 2020 was the continent’s hottest year on record, 0.4 hotter degrees than the previous record holder, 2016.

Their research also found that globally, 2020 was joint warmest with 2016, a conclusion also reached by NASA scientists.

However, NASA points out that El Nino, a naturally occurring climate cycle which impacts the earth’s temperature, was in a strong ‘warm’ phase in 2016, whereas in 2020 a warm phase only began towards the end of the year.

This suggests that the earth’s background climate is continuing to warm, regardless of naturally occurring cycles such as this.

Carbon Dioxide concentrations also increased by 2.3 parts per million (‘ppm’) to a high of 413ppm in May. In 2016 levels of carbon increased above 400ppm for the first time in history.

It’s the trend that matters

Different studies, using different techniques and data sources, may well disagree on the exact temperature of the earth in any one year.

It can also be difficult to put a 2.3 parts per million increase in CO2 or 0.23 degree temperature rise in to context!

But the key thing to track is the trend over time.

NASA’s records based on land and ocean data (image above) clearly show the impacts of climate change. NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) has found that the last seven years have been the warmest on record.

GISS Director Gavin Schmidt said:

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.

Check out our article ‘Net Zero by 2050 – what’s the rush?’ for more information on why rapid progress must be made to cut greenhouse gas emissions to slow climate change.



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