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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.

Go deeper

Coronavirus cases fall in 41 states

Expand chart
Data: The COVID Tracking Project, state health departments; Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

New coronavirus infections fell by 16% over the past week — the third straight week of significant improvement.

Yes, but: The U.S. is still averaging roughly 165,000 new cases per day, meaning the virus is still spreading largely unchecked. And the rise of more contagious variants will ensure that Americans’ risk remains high.

Mike Allen, author of AM
8 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Biden adviser Cedric Richmond sees first-term progress on reparations

Illustration: "Axios on HBO"

White House senior adviser Cedric Richmond told "Axios on HBO" that it's "doable" for President Biden to make first-term progress on breaking down barriers for people of color, while Congress studies reparations for slavery.

Why it matters: Biden said on the campaign trail that he supports creation of a commission to study and develop proposals for reparations — direct payments for African-Americans.

Cyber CEO: Next war will hit regular Americans online

Any future real-world conflict between the United States and an adversary like China or Russia will have direct impacts on regular Americans because of the risk of cyber attack, Kevin Mandia, CEO of cybersecurity company FireEye, tells "Axios on HBO."

What they're saying: "The next conflict where the gloves come off in cyber, the American citizen will be dragged into it, whether they want to be or not. Period."