Hottest temperatures on record

record heat

The year 2016 was the hottest on Earth since 1880, with a global temperature of 1.16 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. A study conducted by the UK's national weather service (Met Office) predicts that in the next five years the global average temperature of the Earth will reach new heights.

The ten-year period between 2010 and 2019 has been the hottest years ever recorded. Six of the warmest years recorded took place during the last decade, according to an investigation by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO).

Maximum temperatures have become commonplace

The year 2019 was the second warmest recorded following 2016 when, in part due to the El Niño phenomenon, substantial amounts of heat was sent from the Pacific Ocean into the Earth’s atmosphere.

The Earth has already warmed 1 degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit) since the 19th century. This represents the fastest climate change since the last ice age ended about 10,000 years ago.

Researchers have analysed temperature data from observation stations worldwide and projections indicate that global average temperatures will be between 1.15 degrees Celsius and 1.45 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial conditions between 2020 and 2024.

"The latest five-year forecast suggests continued warming, consistent with sustained high levels of greenhouse gases," said Doug Smith, a member of the Met Office.

"Uncertainties exist within the forecast, but most regions are expected to be warmer and forecast patterns suggest enhanced warming over land, especially northern parts of Europe, Asia and North America –- extending the ongoing trend."

Paris Agreement

Through a pact known as the Paris Agreement, governments have indicated their intention to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

However, they are not on the way to achieving this goal, as young activist Greta Thunberg has occasionally stressed. In fact, the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has warned that the Earth's temperature is increasing at twice the speed of the world average and has already risen above the 1.5 degree Celsius mark.

“Unfortunately, we expect to see much extreme weather throughout 2020 and the coming decades, fuelled by record levels of heat-trapping greenhouse gases in the atmosphere,” noted Petteri Taalas, WMO Secretary General.

According to the Met Office, only a large volcanic eruption could prevent a new heat record in the coming years, as this could act to cool the global climate.

Reference: Met Office, UK

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