Rising temperatures last year capped the world’s warmest decade in modern times, federal climate scientists said Thursday.
In a new climate study, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration ranked 2020 in a dead heat with 2016 as the warmest year since official record-keeping began in 1880. The record-tying warmth came despite a cooling La Niña Pacific Ocean current, which tamped down global temperatures slightly in December.
In a separate assessment released at the same time, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which relies on slightly different temperature records and methods, calculated that the globally averaged temperature last year was the second highest to date—just 0.04 degrees Fahrenheit shy of tying the record set in 2016.
“These long-term trends are very, very clear,” said Gavin Schmidt, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York. “This is another piece of evidence that tells us the planet is warming decade by decade by decade.”
NASA and NOAA scientists labeled 2020 a year of extremes, driven by rising levels of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane that trap heat in the atmosphere.