Climate change: Last decade turns out to be the hottest ever recorded while 2019 stands as second warmest
An increase in carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions, thanks to human activities, is largely driving the rise in temperatures, say experts
It is now confirmed: The year 2019 marked the end of the world’s warmest decade on record. Globally, Earth’s warming trend continued in 2019, making it the second-hottest year, just behind 2016.
This news is according to two independent analyses by NASA, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
"The decade that just ended is clearly the warmest decade on record. Every decade since the 1960s clearly has been warmer than the one before," says Gavin Schmidt, director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS), New York.
A report by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) concurs with the findings, ranking 2019 as the second warmest for the globe.
The world's five warmest years have all occurred since 2015, with nine of the 10 warmest years occurring since 2005. The year 2019 also marked the 43rd consecutive year (since 1977) with global land and ocean temperatures at least nominally above the 20th Century average.
The year 1998 is the only 20th Century year among the 10 warmest years on record.
Parts of central Europe, Asia, Australia, southern Africa (including the island of Madagascar), New Zealand, Alaska, Mexico, and eastern South America had record-high average land temperatures in 2019.
According to scientists from the Goddard Institute for Space Studies, global temperatures in 2019 were 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit (0.98 degrees Celsius) warmer than the 1951 to 1980 mean.
The analysis shows that since the 1880s, the average global surface temperature has risen and the average temperature is now more than 2 degrees Fahrenheit (a bit more than 1 degree Celsius) above that of the late 19th Century.
An increase in carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions, thanks to human activities, is largely driving the rise in temperatures, say experts.
"We crossed over into more than 2 degrees Fahrenheit warming territory in 2015 and we are unlikely to go back," says Schmidt.
"This shows that what’s happening is persistent, not a fluke due to some weather phenomenon: we know that the long-term trends are being driven by the increasing levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere," he adds.
According to the analysis by NOAA, the average temperature across the globe in 2019 was 1.71 degrees Fahrenheit (0.95 degrees Celsius) above the 20th-century average and just 0.07 degrees Fahrenheit (0.04 degrees Celsius) cooler than the 2016 record.
"It was the second-warmest year in the historical record dating back to 1880, and the amount of heat energy stored in the top 2,000 meters of the ocean was the highest on record," says the NOAA.
December's combined global land and ocean surface temperature departure from average for 2019 was also second highest in the 140-year record.
"The month was, in fact, Earth's second-hottest December on record, logging an average temperature 1.89 degrees F (1.05 degrees C) above the 20th-century average. Only December 2015 was warmer," says NOAA.
In a recent global risk report for the next decade by the World Economic Forum, climate-related issues dominated the top five long-term risks in terms of likelihood.
The risks over the next 10 years have been identified as extreme weather, climate action failure, natural disaster, biodiversity loss, and human-made environmental disasters.
"Climate change is striking harder and more rapidly than many expected. The last five years are on track to be the warmest on record, natural disasters are becoming more intense and more frequent, and last year witnessed unprecedented extreme weather throughout the world," says the report.
"Alarmingly, global temperatures are on track to increase by at least 3°C towards the end of the century — twice what climate experts have warned is the limit to avoid the most severe economic, social and environmental consequences," the report adds.