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Hot again: 2020 sets yet another global temperature record
AP Jan 14, 2021 1 day ago
FILE - In this Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2020. file photo, smoke from California wildfires up to 200 miles away obscures the view of traffic traveling on Interstate 80, looking west in Sparks, Nev. Local schools canceled all outdoor activities as the air quality index approached the "very unhealthy" category for the general population Wednesday afternoon. (AP Photo/Scott Sonner)
FILE - In this Friday, July 31, 2020 file photo, a fan sprays water mist as customers sit outside a cafe in downtown Rome during a heat wave with temperatures over 34 Celsius (104 Fahrenheit)
FILE - In this Thursday, June 18, 2020 file photo, vendors and rickshaw drivers sleep in the open early on a hot summer morning in Karachi, Pakistan, as parts of the country continued to experience an intense heat wave. (AP Photo/Fareed Khan)
FILE - In this Wednesday, Aug. 12, 2020 file photo, a man keeps cool with a shirt over his head as he walks alongside The Serpentine in Hyde Park in London with high temperatures forecast again for many parts of England. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)
Earth’s rising fever hit or neared record hot temperature levels in 2020, global weather groups reported Thursday.
“It’s like the film ‘Groundhog Day.’ Another year, same story — record global warmth,” said Pennsylvania State University climate scientist Michael Mann, who wasn’t part of the measurement teams. “As we continue to generate carbon pollution, we expect the planet to warm up. And that’s precisely what we’re seeing.”
First or second rankings really don’t matter, “but the key thing to take away is that the long-term trends in temperature are very very clearly up and up and up,” said Schmidt, who heads NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies that tracks temperatures. “We’re in a position where we’re pushing the climate system out of the bounds that it’s been in for tens of thousands of years, if not millions of years.”
All the monitoring agencies agree the six warmest years on record have been the six years since 2015. The 10 warmest have all occurred since 2005, and scientists say that warming's driven by the burning of coal, oil and natural gas.
Temperatures the last six or seven years “really hint at an acceleration in the rise of global temperatures,” said Russ Vose, analysis branch chief at NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information. While temperature increases have clearly accelerated since the 1980s, it’s too early to discern a second and more recent acceleration, Schmidt said.
Last year's exceptional heat “is yet another stark reminder of the relentless pace of climate change, which is destroying lives and livelihoods across our planet,” United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres said in a statement. “Making peace with nature is the defining task of the 21st century.”
“We cannot avoid 1.5 C above pre-industrial now -- it is just too late to turn things around,” University of Oklahoma meteorology professor Jason Furtado, who wasn’t on any of the measurement teams, said in an email. “I also fear that the 2 C threshold is slipping away from us too unless changes become much more immediate in the US and other nations.”
Earth has warmed 1.6 degrees (0.9 degrees Celsius) since 1942, when President-elect Joe Biden was born, and 1.2 degrees (0.6 degrees Celsius) since 1994, when pop star Justin Bieber was born, according to NOAA data.
The main reason the agencies have varying numbers is because there are relatively few temperature gauges in the Arctic. NOAA and the British weather agency take a conservative approach in extrapolating for the missing data, while NASA factors that the Arctic is warming much faster than the rest of the globe, hitting https://apnews.com/article/45ffaf65b4f0301a41c4db02fa0ad2c7">100 degrees (38 Celsius) in the Russian Arctic last June, said NASA's Schmidt.
The pandemic may have added ever so slightly to last year’s warming, enough to edge 2020 past 2016 in NASA's calculations, Schmidt said.
Around the globe, people were driving less — and that reduced short-term aerosol pollution which acts as a cooling agent by reflecting heat. Schmidt said fewer cooling aerosols could be responsible for .09 to .18 degrees (.05 to .1 degrees Celsius) warming for the year.
NOAA's Vose and Schmidt expect 2021 to be among the top five hottest years but probably not a record breaker because of natural temporary cooling in parts of the Pacific called La Nina.
NOAA and NASA measurements go back to 1880, while the United Kingdom Met Office has readings back to 1850.