2020 was the hottest year ever, mathematically eclipsing the previous record. Which was in 2016. It’s almost as if the climate is changing.
According to NASA, 2020’s average global temperature was one degree higher than the 30-year average between 1951 and 1980. Scientists have claimed 2020 as the planet’s hottest year on record, slightly besting the previous winner (which was 2016), by a tenth of a degree Celsius. The temperatures were close enough to fall within the scientists’ margin of error, so they considered it “a statistical tie.”
“The last seven years have been the warmest seven years on record, typifying the ongoing and dramatic warming trend,” Gavin Schmidt, director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, said in a press release.
2020 was a historic year for apocalyptic weather. As Business Insider noted, “Bushfires raged through eastern Australia in January. In South America, the largest tropical wetland on Earth went up in flames. Typhoon Goni barreled into the Philippines with sustained winds of 313 km/h, making it the strongest tropical cyclone landfall in history. A huge glacier broke off a Greenland ice shelf and drifted into the sea. Research has shown that the changing climate is contributing to stronger hurricanes, more severe heat waves, larger and more destructive wildfires, and heavier rainfall that can cause flooding.”
“Global warming won’t necessarily increase overall tropical storm formation, but when we do get a storm it’s more likely to become stronger,” Jim Kossin, an atmospheric scientist at NOAA, told The Guardian. “And it’s the strong ones that really matter.”
Indeed, the United States registered $95 billion in damages linked to climate change in 2020. As Business Insider put it, “Wildfires in the Pacific Northwest and Rockies forced tens of thousands of people to evacuate their homes in late summer. Four million acres burned in California – more than double the previous state record. Fires killed at least 31 people in California, nine in Oregon, and one in Washington. Colorado, too, saw three of the four largest fires in state history. The region hadn’t seen fires of that scale in 1,000 years, journalist Eric Holthaus reported.”
According to a report by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, America notched up 22 weather events where the damage passed a billion dollars. Seven were linked to tropical cyclones, 13 to severe storms, one to drought, and one to wildfires. The previous annual record was 16 events, set in 2017.
But the final word should go to Gavin Schmidt of NASA. “Whether one year is a record or not is not really that important – the important things are long-term trends,” Schmidt said. “With these trends, and as the human impact on the climate increases, we have to expect that records will continue to be broken.”