Hurricane Florence

Earth's 5 warmest years on record have occurred since 2014

Data: NASA GISS; Graphic: Harry Stevens/Axios

Last year was Earth's 4th-warmest year on record, coming in behind 2016, the planet's warmest recorded year, as well as 2015 and 2017, according to information released Wednesday by NOAA, NASA and the U.K. Met Office.

Why it matters: The yearly rankings don't tell the whole story of long-term climate change, since natural variability can still push or pull an individual year up or down the rankings. However, the overall picture is growing starker with each passing year. Nine of the 10 warmest years on record since reliable data began in 1880 have occurred since 2005. At the same time, greenhouse gases from the burning of fossil fuels — as well as deforestation and intensive agriculture — have skyrocketed to levels not seen in more than 800,000 years.

Study: Sea level rise boosted Hurricane Florence's coastal flooding

Data: First Street Foundation; Chart: Chris Canipe/Axios

A sea level research and communications group's rapid analysis of the storm surge from Hurricane Florence has found that 1-in-5 of the homes impacted along the Carolina coast wouldn't have fared so badly had sea levels not risen significantly since 1970.

Why it matters: Sea level rise is one of the most significant effects of climate change that is already impacting society, and its footprint is only projected to grow. For example, the report also projects far more flooding from a similar, Florence-type storm in 2050.