“The decade that just ended is clearly the warmest decade on record,” Gavin Schmidt, the director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York, said in a Wednesday press release.
— NASA Goddard (@NASAGoddard) January 15, 2020
The analysis by NASA and NOAA also confirmed what the Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S), an agency supported by the European Union, revealed on January 9: 2019 was the second-hottest year ever recorded.
Average global surface temperatures have continued to increase since the 1880s, when heavy coal-fueled industrialization took off in Europe, Japan, and the United States, and the average temperature is now more than 2 degrees Fahrenheit higher than it was during the late 19th century.
Climate models have revealed that the temperature climb has been driven by increases in carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases produced by burning fossil fuels like coal, petroleum, and natural gas.
“We crossed over into more than 2 degrees Fahrenheit warming territory in 2015, and we are unlikely to go back. This shows that what’s happening is persistent, not a fluke due to some weather phenomenon: we know that the long-term trends are being driven by the increasing levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere,” Schmidt noted.
According to NOAA, the average global temperature in 2019 was 58.7 degrees Fahrenheit, which is just a few hundredths of a degree less than the record set in 2016.
Last week, the C3S also announced that 2019 was the “fifth in a series of exceptionally warm years,” noting the average global temperatures of the last five years have been between 1.1 and 1.2 degrees Celsius higher than the pre-industrial level designated by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). A new study, published in the journal Advances in Atmospheric Sciences Monday, also found that the past 10 years have been the warmest on record for global oceans, with the last five being even warmer than the preceding five.
The contrast between US government agencies on the question of climate change is stark: while NOAA, an agency of the US Department of Commerce and NASA, an independent agency, have clearly sided with scientists in sounding the alarm about human influence over the warming global climate. However, under US President Donald Trump, the US Environmental Protection Agency has repeatedly slashed regulations on fossil fuel-burning industries and power plants, and a recent US government watchdog report noted the EPA has no contingency plans for hazardous waste sites imperiled by rising seas.
The effects of a warming climate have been strongly felt. High temperatures made headlines across the globe in 2019, as several heatwaves spread across continental Europe in June and July. Meanwhile, sea ice in Alaskan waters has completely melted away, according to satellite data from the US National Weather Service, while bushfires have devoured large chunks of Australian land since September.