In DepthClimate Change

Global temperatures in 2020 tied record highs

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Science  22 Jan 2021:
Vol. 371, Issue 6527, pp. 334-335
DOI: 10.1126/science.371.6527.334

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Summary

Surface temperatures last year tied the modern record, climate scientists reported. Overall, the planet was about 1.25°C warmer than in preindustrial times, and barreling toward a breach of climate targets, according to jointly reported assessments from NASA, Berkeley Earth, the U.K. Met Office, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The annual update of global surface temperatures—an average of readings from thousands of weather stations and ocean probes—shows 2020 essentially tied records set in 2016. But the years were nothing alike. Temperatures in 2016 were boosted by a strong El Niño, whereas last year the Pacific Ocean entered La Niña, which has a cooling effect. Heat continued to build in the oceans, which each set a warming record, while the impacts of heat waves, ice melt, and fires were felt worldwide. Should the current rate of warming continue, the world will breach the targets set in the Paris climate agreement—limiting warming to 1.5°C or 2°C—by 2035 and 2065, respectively.

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