It's Almost Certain 2020 Will Be Among The Hottest Years On Record

The bottom of the empty Studena dam near Pernik, Bulgaria in November 2019. Minko Peev/Shutterstock

The last 10 years have been a decade of unprecedented record-breaking temperatures, and this year is likely to continue the trend, according to meteorologists. Analysis of temperatures over the first quarter of 2020 put it as the second-warmest first three-month period recorded, and delivers a grim projection for the remaining nine months.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has calculated that currently, 2020 has a 74.67 percent chance of being the hottest year since records. It has a 99.94 percent chance of being in the top five, and over 99.99 percent chance to be in the top 10 hottest years on record.

These estimates are part of the NOAA’s State of the Climate: Global Climate Report for March 2020. They are based on two main factors: statistical distribution of month-to-month fluctuations in the historical record and how different the monthly readings have been compared to all previous annually averaged values. And March 2020 was, unfortunately, a scorcher.

Last month was warmer than average across most of the planet. In particular, the US east of the Rockies, central and east Asia, and the southern portion of South America registered temperatures at least 2.0°C (3.6°F) higher than the averages for March since records began. Record-breaking temperatures for March were recorded across 42 million square kilometers (16 million square miles). That’s about 8.17 percent of our planet.

January 2020 was the hottest January on record. February was the second hottest February on record after February 2016 and record temperatures were registered across the world including the hottest ever temperature in Antarctica.

Global year-to-date temperature anomalies. 2020 appears to be closely tracking 2016, the hottest year on record. NOAA

March was also the second hottest March globally on record, behind March 2016. According to the report: “March 2020 marked the 44th consecutive March and the 423rd consecutive month with temperatures, at least nominally, above the 20th-century average.”

The differences in global temperatures of the first three months of this year and the 20th-century average have been quite constant, though 2016 saw a bump due to a particularly strong El Niño. Although 2020 appears to be closely tracking 2016's temperatures.

However, anyone hoping that the current lockdown-induced drop in pollution and carbon dioxide emissions will have a long-lasting effect, this is unlikely. It may prove a brief respite, but it is unlikely to affect the climate on the long-run, and scientists are urging people not to forget the ongoing climate crisis which still needs to be addressed. 

 

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