Topline: Europe witnessed its warmest year ever recorded in 2019, while the rest of the world experienced its second-warmest year on record, marginally behind 2016’s unprecedented conditions, according to the European Union’s Climate Change Service.
- 2019 was the fifth year in a series of “exceptionally warm years,” scientists found. The most pronounced warming was measured in Alaska and across parts of the Arctic.
- Last year was about 0.6°C hotter than the average temperature for the 1981-2010 period. Global average surface air temperature was only 0.04°C lower than in 2016, which is the warmest year on record following the El Nino weather phenomenon that caused a heatwave.
- 2010–2019 was the warmest decade since records have been kept of the Earth’s temperature, beginning in 1979. Over the past five years, the Earth’s temperature has been between 1.1°C and 1.2°C above preindustrial levels.
- Concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere have continued to rise, the data showed.
- The official figures were compiled by the EU’s Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S) and the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service using advanced computer models.
Crucial quote: Jean-Noël Thépaut, from the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts, said: “The past five years have been the five warmest on record; the last decade has been the warmest on record: These are unquestionably alarming signs.”
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Key background: Last summer saw temperature records shattered across Europe, notably in France, Germany and the Netherlands. Annual wildfires in Australia, which continue to rage, are among the worst on record in part due to scorching temperatures. A 2018 report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned of the need for unprecedented changes to human habits to keep global warming below 1.5°C above preindustrial levels.
Tangent: 2019’s record-breaking figures coincided with a culturally significant year in which climate activism and protests intensified. Collins English Dictionary named “climate strike” its word of the year, while Greta Thunberg, a student activist who inspired millions of students worldwide to embark on school strikes for climate crisis awareness, was named Time Magazine’s person of the year.
What to watch for: Similar data from NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, out later this month.