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2020 ‘tied’ for warmest year on record – NASA

Analysis from NASA has shown that 2020 is tied with 2016 for the title of warmest year ever recorded.  Scientists at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) found that the year’s globally averaged temperature was 1.02°C warmer than the baseline 1951–1980 mean.

The findings come in spite of the reduced carbon dioxide emissions that resulted from COVID-19 lockdown measures. In fact, the lower levels of particulate pollution allowed more sunlight to reach the planet’s surface, producing what NASA called a ‘small but potentially significant’ warming effect. 

Overall carbon dioxide concentrations also continued to increase in 2020 – just at a slower rate – and because warming is linked to cumulative emissions, the overall amount of avoided warming will be minimal. 

Meanwhile, the devastating Australian bush fires that burned during the first half of the year released smoke and other particles some 30 km into the atmosphere. These particles likely blocked sunlight, resulting in slight atmospheric cooling.

‘The previous record warm year, 2016, received a significant boost from a strong El Niño,’ says a statement by GISS Director Gavin Schmidt. ‘The lack of a similar assist from El Niño this year is evidence that the background climate continues to warm due to greenhouse gases.’

Separate analysis by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) found that 2020 was the second-warmest year on record behind 2016. Though NOAA and NASA use much of the same temperature data, the former uses a different baseline period (1901–2000). 

In addition, NOAA doesn’t infer temperatures in polar regions lacking observation – which accounts for much of the disparity between its findings and NASA’s. 

News Item details

Journal title: Energy World

Organisation: NASA

Subjects: Climate change -

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