Apr 22, 2020 - Energy & Environment

2020 could be the warmest year on record

Reproduced from NOAA; Chart: Axios Visuals
Reproduced from NOAA; Chart: Axios Visuals

2020 is certain to be among the warmest years in modern temperature records that date back to the late 1800s, and stands a very good chance of beating 2016 to top the list, per the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Why it matters: The recent estimate (which I learned about in this Washington Post piece by former Axios colleague Andrew Freedman) shows the ongoing march of global warming, even as policymakers are consumed with responding to COVID-19.

What they found: "Based on current anomalies and historical global annual temperature readings, it appears that it is virtually certain that 2020 will be a top-10 year," said NOAA, which also released this comparison to other years.

  • They see a nearly 75% chance that it will be the warmest on record, and a nearly 100% chance of a top-5 ranking.

The intrigue: "This is somewhat unexpected, since there is no declared El Niño event in the tropical Pacific Ocean, which tends to provide a natural boost to global temperatures that are already elevated due to the human-caused buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere," Freedman writes of the 75% chance.

Go deeper: Why climate change is the easiest news to fake

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