2021 Was The World's Fifth-Hottest Year On Record

Sign from a Climate protest in September 2021. Image Credit: Jade Prevost Manuel/Shutterstock.com

2021 was the fifth hottest on record, despite the cooling effect of La Nina, the European Copernicus Climate Change Service has announced. Based on their data, the seven hottest years on record all happened in the last... seven years.

Last year, the average global temperatures were between 1.1 and 1.2°C (1.98 and 2.16 °F) above pre-industrial level, getting closer and closer to the 1.5 °C (2.7 °F) threshold that world governments signed up to avoid with the Paris Agreement. Not that they are doing it successfully.

The warmest calendar year on record remains 2016, followed very closely by 2020, cooler by less than 0.01°C. The third was 2019, and the fourth was 2017. Following 2021 in fifth place are 2015 and 2018.


Freja Vamborg, a senior scientist for C3S at the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts, explained in a press conference that 2021 was only marginally hotter than the other two years. For this reason, different data sets might place 2021 as the sixth or seventh hottest on record depending on the data collected.

Despite the actual classification, the fact that the hottest years in centuries all happened since 2015 it is the loudest alarm bell possible. Temperatures were above average across most land masses and over a majority of the ocean.

Compared to the last thirty years, the west coast of the USA and Canada to northeastern Canada and Greenland were significantly hotter than average, plus central and northern Africa, the Middle East, Afghanistan, the Tibetan Plateau, and the far south of South America. Colder than average conditions were seen in Australia, Alaska, Antarctica, and a large swathe of the Pacific, likely the effect of La Nina.

“Although La Nina conditions in the Pacific ocean temporarily suppressed slightly human-caused warming of climate in the first half of 2021, the damaging flooding in central Europe and severe heatwaves and wildfires across the Mediterranean and North America illustrate that when extreme weather patterns hit, they are more severe in a world that is over 1 degree Celsius warmer than pre-industrial times,” Professor Richard Allan, Professor of Climate Science, University of Reading, not involved in the report, told the Science Media Centre.

“This ongoing monitoring of the planet is vital in documenting and improving resilience to impacts and identifying surprises that are emerging such as a continued surge in methane concentrations and the [sheer] severity of climatic extremes now being experienced.”


The preliminary data from the Copernicus Report also looked into the growth of carbon dioxide and methane in the atmosphere. Emissions have roughly stayed constant over the last decade contributing to the increase in the concentration of these greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Methane increase was particularly steep. To curb emission, the solution is simple: a drastic reduction of carbon dioxide and methane pumped into the atmosphere.


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