Europe Has Just Endured Its Hottest Year On Record, Climate Report Reveals


Tom Hale

Senior Journalist

clockApr 22 2021, 14:48 UTC

A Russian firefighter trudges towards a wildfire in Siberia.  Image credit: Tursk Aleksandra/

Today, April 22, is Earth Day — and what better way to celebrate than musing on the troubled state of our planet. 

Europe endured its hottest year on record last year, according to the European State of the Climate 2020 report released today


Winter temperatures were notably warm, with temperatures in Europe around 3.4°C (6.12°F) higher than the 1981–2010 average and 1.4°C (2.5°F) higher than the second warmest winter on record. 

The Arctic also took a beating, experiencing one of its worst years on record. For the Arctic region as a whole, 2020 was the second warmest year on record with a surface temperature anomaly of 2.2°C (4°F) above the 1981‒2010 average. Siberia bore some of the largest anomalies worldwide with annual temperature anomalies reaching more than 6°C (10.8°F) above average. Last year also saw huge stretches of Arctic Siberia set ablaze with some of the worst wildfires seen in recent memory as a result of the freakish heatwaves. 

Globally speaking, 2020 was one of the three warmest years on record, together with 2016 and 2019. Global temperatures in 2020 were around 1.3°C (2.3°F) warmer than they were between 1850 to 1900 and 0.5-0.6°C (0.9-1°F)-warmer than the 1981–2010 reference period.


Greenhouse gases, primarily carbon dioxide and methane, continued their upwards trajectory and were at their highest since satellite observations began in 2003. Early analysis suggests that carbon dioxide increased at a slightly lower rate than in recent years and methane increased more rapidly, two trends which are likely explained by the COVID-19 pandemic and the disruption to the global economy. Nevertheless, this is just a tiny blip in the long-term change. As previous work has clearly shown, the 2020 COVID-19 lockdowns will have no meaningful impact on the wider climate crisis facing the planet

The report was released today by the European Union's Copernicus Earth observation program to coincide with Earth Day. The day will also see a US-led virtual summit where world leaders will gather to discuss plans to address the deepening climate crisis. 

Countries are set to announce their pledges for reducing carbon emissions and highlight the progress that’s been made so far. As per BBC News, other aspects of the summit will look at plans to finance the solutions, especially in developing countries, and ways to increase resilience to the impacts of climate. Lastly, defense ministers from a number of countries will discuss the global security implications of climate change.


President Joe Biden is set to pledge a new target for the US to slash net greenhouse gas emissions by over 50 percent, compared to 2005 levels, by 2030. 

“The United States is not waiting, the costs of delay are too great, and our nation is resolved to act now.  Climate change poses an existential threat, but responding to this threat offers an opportunity to support good-paying, union jobs, strengthen America’s working communities, protect public health, and advance environmental justice. Creating jobs and tackling climate change go hand in hand,” the White House said in a statement.

 This Week in IFLScience

Receive our biggest science stories to your inbox weekly!

  • tag
  • climate crisis