Climate Crisis: 2020 joint hottest year on record globally

2020 will go down in history for many things, but another added to the list today ranks 2020 as the joint hottest year on record globally with 2016. This makes it the sixth hottest in a series of exceptionally warm years starting in 2015, and 2011-2020 the warmest decade recorded. Looking at it regionally, 2020 saw Europe have its warmest year on record, 0.4°C warmer than 2019 which was previously the warmest year.

Global temperatures compared to the 1981-2010 average Credit: Copernicus Climate Change Service

It comes as data released by the Met Office today that 2021, carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is expected to reach levels 50% higher than before the industrial revolution, due to human-caused emissions. Data from Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS), reports that CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere have continued to rise at a rate of approximately 2.3 ppm/year in 2020 reaching a maximum of 413 ppm during May 2020.

CO2 concentrations in the Atmosphere are forecast to rise to 417 parts per million this year. 50% above the pre industrial level Credit: Met Office

Copernicus dataset for surface air temperatures shows that:

  • Globally, 2020 was on a par with the 2016 record

  • 2020 was 0.6°C warmer than the standard 1981-2010 reference period and around 1.25°C above the 1850-1900 pre-industrial period

  • This makes the last six years the warmest six on record

  • Europe saw its warmest year on record at 1.6°C above the 1981-2010 reference period, and 0.4°C above 2019, the previous warmest year

  • The largest annual temperature deviation from the 1981-2010 average was concentrated over the Arctic and northern Siberia, reaching to over 6°C above average

ITV Meteorologist, Laura Tobin explains more on today's Good Morning Britain

Parts of the Arctic and northern Siberia saw some temperatures some 3 to 6 degrees Celsius above normal. Western Siberia experienced an exceptionally warm winter and spring, a pattern also seen over summer and autumn in the Siberian Arctic and over much of the Arctic Ocean. It's worrying as these locations are most sensitive to just small changes in temperature, let alone some 6 degrees Celsius above average.

Carlo Buontempo, the director of Copernicus C3S said "It is no surprise that the last decade was the warmest on record, and is yet another reminder of the urgency of ambitious emissions reductions to prevent adverse climate impacts."

There is one key difference between 2016 and 2020, El Niño. 2016 saw an El Niño year, where temperatures often get a natural boost from a process that takes place in the Southern Pacific Ocean. Meanwhile, 2020, saw El Niño's counterpart, La Niña. During these years, the global climate is usually impacted with temperatures often lower.

  • You can learn more about Climate Change in the ITV Weather digital series Climate Crisis - Our Changing World - watch episode two here