2019 was the second-warmest year on record

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The year 2019 is officially
the second warmest in the 140-year record of modern temperatures compiled by both
NASA and the U.S. National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration,
scientists said January 15. The five warmest years on record have all occurred
since 2014 — making
2019 the end to the hottest decade ever recorded.

The more important takeaway
from the data is not how each of the last five years is ranked, but “the
consistency of the long-term trends that we’re seeing,” climate scientist Gavin
Schmidt said during a news conference.

“The top five years are the
last five years, [and] the last decade is the warmest,” said Schmidt, who is
the director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York City.
Furthermore, since the mid-20th century, “every decade has been warmer than the
last, and not by a small amount.”

From January to December
2019, the mean global temperature was 0.95 degree Celsius higher than the
long-term average from 1901 to 2000, and about 0.98 degrees warmer than the
average global temperature from 1951 to 1980.

During the hottest recorded
year, 2016, global average temperatures were 0.99 degrees above the mid-century
mean. But temperatures that year were influenced by a strong El Niño
Southern Oscillation weather pattern (SN:
8/21/19
), which historically increases the average global temperature, the
researchers noted in the news conference, held during the American
Meteorological Society’s annual meeting in Boston. El Niño had an impact on
2019 temperatures too, but it was much smaller than in 2016, Schmidt said. If
El Niño wasn’t a factor, 2017 would have been the hottest year on record, with
2019 coming in third.

The heat last year broke records in cities around the world (SN: 12/16/19) and helped fuel wildfires from the Arctic to Australia (SN: 8/2/19; SN: 1/9/20). The extent of sea ice in the Arctic was the third-lowest in records going back to 1979 in September 2019, after 2012 and 2007.

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