Jan 14, 2021 - Energy & Environment

U.S. government scientists say 2020 was second-hottest year on record

Burning.
Photo: David McNew/Getty Images

2020 was the second-hottest year on record, according to an analysis by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration scientists.

Why it matters: It's the second year in a row the Earth has experienced near-record heat, offering more evidence of the effects of global warming at the beginning of what could be a critical year for climate policy in the U.S. and around the globe, writes Axios Ben Geman.

By the numbers: Land and ocean surface temperatures were recorded at an average of 1.76°F (0.98°C) above the 20th-century average — and just 0.04°F (0.02°C) cooler than in 2016, which was the hottest year on record.

  • It was the hottest year ever recorded for the Northern Hemisphere, which saw temperatures at 2.3°F (1.28°C) above the 20th-century average.
  • The new numbers knock 2019 down to the third-hottest year on-record. That year, the average temperature was 1.71°F (0.95°C) above the 20th-century average.

The big picture: The NOAA analysis comes one week after a study by the European Union's Copernicus Climate Change Service ranked 2020 as tied with 2016 for the hottest year on record.

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