Science & Technology

Last year ties 2016 as hottest year in recorded history

Miami, Jan 14 (efe-epa).- Last year tied 2016 as the hottest year since records have been kept, according to a report published Thursday by NASA that confirms the planet’s warming trend.

The study, which incorporated data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), says that 2020 exceeded 2016 by a very tiny amount that falls within the error margin of the analysis, meaning that the two years are “effectively tied” as the hottest years in recorded history.

“We saw the heat waves. We saw the fires. We saw the (melting) Arctic,” said NASA’s top climate scientist, Gavin Schmidt, with the Goddard Institute for Space Studies. “We’re expecting it to get hotter and that’s exactly what happened.”

He noted that the past seven years have also been the hottest seven years in recorded history, thus providing evidence of the dramatic rate of global warming.

According to NASA, the average global temperature for 2020 was 1.84 degrees Fahrenheit (1.02 degrees Celsius) hotter than the average between 1951-1980, the period used as a reference point, although Schmidt said that for a single year to break a record is not really relevant, what is important being the long-term trend.

Nevertheless, “we’re in a position where we’re pushing the climate system out of the bounds that it’s been in for tens of thousands of years, if not millions of years,” Schmidt said.

The planet’s average temperature has increased by more than 2 degrees F since the end of the 19th century, when industrialization expanded significantly and greenhouse gas emissions also increased, thus giving a clue as to the impact of human activity on the warming of Earth, the report says.

NASA said that the rising temperature is resulting in situations like the loss of sea ice and the shrinking of the polar ice caps, rising sea levels, longer and more intense heat waves and changes in the habitats of plants and animals.

The US space agency emphasized the effect of the wildfires in Australia during the first quarter of 2020, which burned 46 million acres and produced smoke and other particulate matter that rose to more than 18 miles (29 kilometers) above the planet’s surface blocking sunlight and possibly slightly cooling the atmosphere.

On the other hand, the global quarantine due to the coronavirus pandemic reduced air pollution in many areas, thus allowing more sunlight to get to Earth’s surface and producing a small, but potentially significant warming effect.

The quarantines and lockdowns resulted – in the United States – in a reduction in the effect of greenhouse gases by 10 percent, according to a report by the Rhodium Group, a consulting firm, but that does not mean there was an immediate effect on global temperature levels and it is expected that greenhouse gas emissions will return to their regular rate once the pandemic begins to be mitigated.

The natural El Niño weather phenomenon, which is a natural heat exchange cycle between the ocean and the atmosphere, has an impact on the variation of the planet’s temperature and did so in early 2020 when it led to a slight increase in the global temperature, although later that effect diminished.

Schmidt said that in 2016 El Niño gave a significant push to global temperatures.

The absence of a similar stimulus from El Niño in 2020 is proof that the basic climate continues to warm because of greenhouse gases, he said.

The NASA report emphasizes that the warming trend is more pronounced in the Arctic, where over the past 30 years warming has proceeded three times faster than across the rest of the planet.

In that region, the minimum annual arctic ice cover is decreasing by 13 percent per decade, a situation that causes the region to be less reflective, meaning that more sunlight is absorbed by the oceans and the temperature rises even more as well as leading to sea level rise.

NASA warned that it is essential to understand these long-term climate trends so that people can adapt to a changing environment and prepare for extreme weather phenomena.

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