Climate Change

2020 Is in a Near Tie for Hottest Year in the Modern Temperature Record

The last seven years have been the warmest seven years on record.

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Last year is either in a tie for the hottest year in the modern temperature record or a close second place, according to datasets just released by various global temperature monitoring groups.

Earlier this month, the European Copernicus Climate Change Service reported that "2020 was tied with the previous warmest year 2016, making it the sixth in a series of exceptionally warm years starting in 2015, and 2011-2020 the warmest decade recorded." 2020 was 0.6°C warmer than the standard 1981–2010 reference period—and around 1.25°C above the period from 1850 to 1900.

NASA's Goddard Space Studies Institute similarly agrees that the "Earth's global average surface temperature in 2020 tied with 2016 as the warmest year on record." GISS also found that Earth's average temperature has risen more than 2°F (1.2°C) since the late 19th century.

Some other climate research groups say that 2020 was a close second to 2016. For example, the University of Alabama in Huntsville's satellite data has 2020 just behind 2016 and just ahead of 1998. ("Considering the uncertainty of the measurements," the researchers note, "these three years could be considered as tied for the warmest year of the 42-year record.") The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Climatic Data Center also puts 2020 in second place: "just 0.04 of a degree F (0.02 of a degree C) cooler than the 2016 record." And the independent Berkeley Earth research group has concluded that 2020 was the second warmest on Earth since 1850 if you take both land and ocean data into consideration—but it adds that "2020 was definitively the warmest year on record for land temperatures, nearly 2 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial average."

The U.K.'s Met Office also ranks 2020 as the second warmest year, just below the global record set in 2016. The Met Office researchers note that 2016's temperatures "were elevated by El Niño conditions"—when the surface waters in the central and eastern Pacific Ocean become significantly warmer than usual—"which can increase global temperatures by around +0.2°C." As it happens, the advent of a La Niña phase in the Pacific Ocean during the last half of the year actually lowered 2020's global average temperature.

In my November 2019 article "What Climate Science Tells Us About Temperature Trends," I cited a team of Chinese atmospheric scientists who found that the high average global temperatures in 1998 and 2016 had been boosted by super El Niños in those years. In 1998, the El Niño event added 0.18°C to the long-term warming trend; in 2016, it added just 0.06°C. In other words, it took a lot less heat to boost the global average temperature in 2016 to slightly above the average in 1998. It is, therefore, significant that even a cooling La Niña could could not keep 2020 from basically tying 2016 as the warmest year in the modern temperature record. As the Chinese researchers observed, their analysis "implies that warmer years like 2014–2016 may occur more frequently in the near future."

"The last seven years have been the warmest seven years on record, typifying the ongoing and dramatic warming trend," said GISS Director Gavin Schmidt in a press release. "Whether one year is a record or not is not really that important—the important things are long-term trends. With these trends, and as the human impact on the climate increases, we have to expect that records will continue to be broken."

NEXT: If Carelessness Gave Us the Current COVID-19 Surge, Individual Precautions Can Abate That Trend

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  1. “2020 Is in a Near Tie for Hottest Year in the Modern Temperature Record”

    The only solution is for the government to force us to sacrifice our standard of living–both for the good of people in poorer countries and for the good of future generations.

    I know because Joe Biden says so, and we can trust him–because he isn’t Trump and only puts out the sweetest tweets imaginable.

    1. You seem to be channeling Joe Bastardi, rather than Joe Biden.

      It will take more than climate denial on steroids to bring the new administration to the bargaining table on climate policy.

      Unfortunately , steroid sales seem to have rocketed in recent days

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    2. We need to suppress the standard of living in poor countries, too. I’m sure they’ll be happy to comply since liberal Westerners say so.

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      2. You are the only people in the world who think that the key to a decent standard of living is more fossil fuels.

        The wealthiest corporations in history and you do your absurd PR for free.

        1. Do you think cars run on plutonium?

        2. Damn you’re stupid

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    3. Well, at least it looks like you’ve finally accepted that climate change is real, Ken. Baby steps.

      1. Do you have a link to me saying otherwise, or are you just making up stupid shit again?

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    5. Bitch when you have a better solution, Ken. Sticking a lollipop up your butt and pretending facts aren’t real is not a solution, in case that’s where you were going.

      1. We can always “could throw so much debris and smoke into the air that it would block life-giving sunlight from our atmosphere”.

      2. Projection Tony, as you consistently pretend facts aren’t real and Ken does nothing like that.

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  2. Instead of relying upon Chinese research to scare everyone again (and promote the Paris accord and AOC’s green new deal), Bailey could have pointed out the huge increase in carbon emissions in China during the past 25 years (and the next 10, 20 or more years) is and will continue being responsible for much/most of the increase in global carbon emissions, and likely temperatures as well.

    1. And China is not going to stop. If anyone is serious about this, they would work toward developing technologies that China would want to adopt itself.

      1. Darren, China is already the worlds largest producer, and largest domestic installer, of solar panels, photovoltaic and thermal.

        1. And CO2

        2. Solar panels aren’t going to cut it. Will cloud cover not increase with increased global warming? How are they doing on nuclear energy plants? I’m talking about new technologies, not merely producing existing equipment and exporting them. They still have a large population at a fairly low standard of living. Consumption will continue to increase.

        3. China installed more than 5X the amount of coal (in terms of MWh) compared to solar from 2014-2019 and the gap only got (and continues to get) wider.

          If you cared about global carbon emissions, you would acknowledge and denounce this fact rather than obfuscate it.

    2. If you guys hadn’t spent years arguing against the facts (that climate change is real), you could have devoted all that energy to debating the proposed solutions, and offering alternatives to the planned massive government interventions, instead.

      1. “If you guys hadn’t wasted all that time doing stuff that we were going to ignore anyway, you could’ve been doing actually beneficial stuff that we’re going to ignore.”

        1. Sounds like fatalism.

          1. Yup. The belief that you’re doomed while ignoring the practical changes that are being effected that prevent your doom (intentionally or not) is the definition of fatalism.

      2. “If you guys hadn’t spent years arguing against the facts (that climate change is real) . . . “

        The idea that we need to sacrifice our standard of living–because of what people on the internet say–is a stupid idea.

      3. “you could have devoted all that energy to debating the proposed solutions, and offering alternatives to the planned massive government interventions, instead.”

        Climate change skeptics have been urging the adoption of (improved) forms of nuclear power since forever.

      4. “Throw[ing] so much debris and smoke into the air that it would block life-giving sunlight from our atmosphere” sounds like a good plan.

    3. I suggest all but China agreed to reach peak carbon and decline from there

      1. The US is already well below peak carbon.

    4. Here’s a thought — MAYBE, JUST MAYBE… The Weather changes and it’s NO-ONE’S Fault!!!!

      1. Hello myself 10 years ago.

  3. This will be good news for Canadians, as thousands of ships will be able to navigate through the northwest passage (instead of the Panama Canal).

  4. Europe has a “Climate Change Service”?

    I just have an air conditioner.

    1. See how much better it can be when the government is in charge?

      1. Is your air conditioner emitting dangerous Freon? BAN IT! BAN IT! BAN IT! Only the government can fix your ‘climate’!

  5. I personally can’t think of a better reason than this to wreck our electric grid. Do it Joe!

  6. So, the temperature in the 1930’s has dropped again? That’s how they got the last set of records, by lowering the 1930’s.

  7. “Considering the uncertainty of the measurements,” the researchers note,

    Another full on declaration for “the science!”

    ” I cited a team of Chinese atmospheric scientists . . . ”

    Got some bad news for ya Ron – The Communist Chinese Government lies. And EVERYTHING in Communist China is government.

    1. Even if they didn’t lie:
      Single highest total carbon emitting nation in 2005? China
      Single highest total carbon emitting nation in 2010? China
      Single highest total carbon emitting nation in 2015? China
      Single highest total carbon emitting nation in 2020? China

      I don’t see how China’s ongoing domsetic carbon problem is any of the US’s concern.

      1. Sleepy Joe has a carbon tax he would love to levy on China. Carbon credits for the big guy,

  8. The planet’s “average temperature” is calculated, not measured directly, so ‘science’ can do whatever the hell it wants to with it.

    1. The calculus is not strong in this one.

      1. He must be one of those people who believes in empiricism… a whatchacallit… a scientist.

      2. But he’s not wrong about that. It’s the sort of measure that’s subject to manipulation. For example, they’re not using the actual readings from weather stations, and to some extent rightfully so: Many weather stations that used to be out in the middle of farm fields decades later are located in urban areas subject to the urban heat island effect. In some cases, they’re right next to air conditioner heat exhausts!

        But in doing these adjustments, they are making discretionary choices that have effects on the resulting ‘measured’ warming rates.

        So, he’s literally right: It’s a calculated, not measured number, and they had many choices about how to calculate it.

  9. Lies, damn lies and statistics.

    1. ^THIS; And to think I worked months so idiotic insignificant bookies could pretend to be significant by denying the reality that EVERY SINGLE ONE of their predictions of the weather were completely WRONG by undeniable time-proven reality. Yet they continue on their denial-ism of being WRONG over and over and over again in hopes that someday their WRONG will become RIGHT; by perhaps the Indian Drought Dance or something?

      Ignorance knows no boundaries in the world of ‘moral imagination’.

  10. 2020 Is in a Near Tie for Hottest Year in the Modern Temperature Record
    Allll the way back to 1880; that’s when data started being kept. 140 years.

    Which isn’t much, given the age of the earth. And we do know from geologic evidence that the earth has been through many significant changes in climate, and mass extinctions have been the norm throughout its history.

    1. Just as a friendly addendum, for most of those 140 years, the record was based on eyeball readings of bulb type thermometers, from locations that were pretty much random and excessively located in northern, dry land. So, unreliable data for 0.000000030816641 of the earth’s history.

    2. Mass extinctions are the norm, so that makes it OK. Name that fallacy: Trick question. The fallacy is psychotic retardation.

  11. What we need here is more testing!

    1. Maybe a testing coalition force. We’ll start in New Jersey, New York and Cali since they are so close to the ocean.

  12. If climate change were the greatest threat, we’d have nuclear power plants.

  13. dude if you can’t provide figures from before “on record” you’re wasting our time.

  14. The question of whether we should sacrifice our standard of living for the environment, people in other countries, or future generations isn’t a scientific question that can be quantified. For something to be a scientific question, it needs to be falsifiable through observation. Whether we should care more about ourselves than other people simply doesn’t qualify as a scientific question on that basis.

    Science can inform the debate, but the central question of the debate isn’t scientific. It’s a political, ethical, philosophical, etc. That doesn’t mean the answers aren’t rational. It just means that empirical data regarding temperatures and such is only part of it.

    Many of you remember when the question of whether we should invade Iraq was framed as a question of whether Saddam Hussein had WMD. I argued at the time that this wasn’t the only or even an important consideration. The most important consideration was whether it was in the best interests of the United States to invade and occupy Iraq, and it was entirely possible that an occupation might not be in our best interests–even if Saddam Hussein had WMD. I was so glad when Americans on both the right and the left balked at Obama’s silly red line in Syria! If Assad used WMD on his own people, that’s a terrible thing–but that doesn’t mean we need to sacrifice an untold number of American lives and treasure to occupy Syria.

    It’s the same thing with climate change. Before we decided to let Joe Biden and the progressives have their way with our standard of living (and it really is too late to object now), we should have asked questions that really were central to the question of what we should do, if anything, about climate change that simply weren’t being answered. For instance, before we agreed to sacrifice our standard of living on the altar of climate change, we should have known how much of a sacrifice we’re making. We should know how effective our sacrifices are likely to be. After all, the worst possible outcome (from any sane perspective) is the one where we sacrifice our standard of living and it has no impact on climate change whatsoever.

    So, rather than obsess over temperature data, someone who supports Biden’s version of the Green New Deal, please tell me–how much will we need to sacrifice in GDP per capita (the standard measure of our standard of living) before the temperature is any lower than it would have been? How long will we need to continue making these sacrifices?

    There are people who believe in making sacrifices for a cause, no matter what it costs them and no matter whether their sacrifices are actually effective at doing anything. We use terms for these people like, “fanatic”, “kamikaze”, or “suicide bomber”. We shouldn’t be like them.

    There are questions I have about the Paris Climate Accord. I’ve read that China and India have more coal fired plants under construction around the world than we could possibly eliminate ourselves here in the United States.

    https://www.carbonbrief.org/mapped-worlds-coal-power-plants

    Go ahead and crank the dial on that map all the way out to 2020 and explain to me why we should expect the Paris Climate Accord to be an effective means of reducing the use of fossil fuels.

    1. “…There are people who believe in making sacrifices for a cause, no matter what it costs them and no matter whether their sacrifices are actually effective at doing anything. We use terms for these people like, “fanatic”, “kamikaze”, or “suicide bomber”. We shouldn’t be like them…”

      This is a major issue I have with the proposed ‘solutions’; none seem to actually deliver what is claimed to be required, but they all seem to require huge sacrifices in freedom or material cost.
      And as Bubba mentions above, the one solution we know could deliver the results is not on the table; that makes me question the motives of the activists.

    2. The good news is that West Virginia and Montana voters (who support fracking and Trump) will continue pressuring Joe Manchin and Jon Tester to oppose AOC’s crazy anti energy plan.

    3. “There are people who believe in making sacrifices for a cause, no matter what it costs them and no matter whether their sacrifices are actually effective at doing anything. We use terms for these people like, “fanatic”, “kamikaze”, or “suicide bomber”. We shouldn’t be like them.”

      There are a lot of parallels between this and the current Covid lockdown situation. Decisions are being driven by hysteria and panic, not logic and reason.

    4. Please define falsifiable and observation. Are math and logic falsifiable? Are mathematic models use in physic and weather forecasting falsifiable? Does observation mean the logical positivist verification principle of meaning? for something to be meaningful, it must be verifiable.

  15. “…2020 was 0.6°C warmer than the standard 1981–2010 reference period—and around 1.25°C above the period from 1850 to 1900…”

    How does this correlate to the predicted rise?

    1. Ummmm. Someone didn’t cherry-pick the information good enough.

  16. AAAAAAUUUUUUGGGGGHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!

  17. Thees two much word too say this year same again. Nahting new underr da sun.

    Hola, Ron.

  18. So the conclusion is 2020 is the same as it was in 2016

  19. Taking Bailey at face value, this is great news.

    Why? Because for the first few months of 2020, the Western World conducted an involuntary experiment in CO2 emissions reduction. Crippled economies worldwide. A dramatic reduction in activity. And, if Bailey is correct, it didn’t do a Goddamn thing as far as either global temperatures or, looking at Mauna Kea’s CO2 meter, a thing for global CO2 levels.

    (Though I understand they’re finally starting to drop. So we have some error bars for the amount of lag in the global CO2 circulation system from changes in human-caused CO2 production)

    If you can’t change global temperatures even with the kinds of shutdowns we experienced, then it’s not a phenomenon that humans can fix by reducing emissions.

    1. You mistake what’s going on. We will reduce emissions, and the longer people like you advocate cynical psychopathic do-nothingism, the harder the pain will have to be. I’m just stating facts.

      Don’t you think you’ve stood by and applauded enough human death?

      1. We do not need to reduce any emissions, none at all.

  20. Every year is the hottest on record.

  21. The government extorting more money from its citizens is not going to bring temperatures down.

  22. The only way we can save the earth from climate change is to radically change our economy into a more socialist one. As we move to be more like China the earth will slowly cool and we will avert the catastrophe. If you argue against this you are a racist, a homophobe and uneducated.

  23. I’ll remember this article next time I am out clearing my parking lot with my snow blower with ice covering me from head to foot and a wind chill of 10 below. Why does everybody think that increased temperatures are a bad thing?

  24. MMGW is still a hoax

  25. Hottest, ok. But by how much? Is that amount significantl or trivial? What does the trend say about the claimed proximity of a catastrophe ?

    1. It’s the hottest and it doesn’t really matter. More relevantly, even if it does matter there is nothing we can do about it that wouldn’t entail greater risks than doing nothing. I suspect the globe will continue to warm, gradually, until it begins to cool again. And by then hopefully we’ll be a multi-planet species.

  26. Ronald Bailey keeps buying into the notion that people who call themselves “scientists” actually know what they pretend to know. “Climate science” is a hoax designed to scare the public so that climate scientists become more important and so that politicians can use their scare stories to take more of our freedom and our wealth. Climate alarmism was invented for several purposes – to scare the public, to enrich climate scientists, to empower politicians, and to suppress human activity. Each of those purposes enlists supporters. Climate science is a theory using mathematical models based on unproven, untestable and ridiculous assumptions, just ike so many other fake theories. The earth is not a homogeneous body and it does not have a temperature. Neither does the earth’s surface. The Atlantic Ocean does not have a temperature, neither does a city or a mountain or a river. The temperature where I live varies at different locations in the building, at different locations in my apartment, at different locations in my body. It would be hard to scare people about the earth warming if you could not say that the earth is warming, so the climate fear-mongers say it and pretend to measure “it.” One can generally say that the earth is warming or cooling, without pretending more, and without pretending that we can control climate. Ancient peoples prayed to the gods to control the weather, modern people pray to the climate scientists and politicians. Humble and intellectually honest people understand that climate change consists of phenomena that are too complex for us to understand or control, and that the best we can do is what people have always done – adapt our lifestyles so that we can survive and thrive. Turning over our lives and our property to stupid politicians and their high priests, the “scientists” (or the “economists,” the health “experts,” etc.), is foolish and irresponsible. I like warm weather, and far prefer it to an ice age. I like depending on human action and ingenuity for heat and energy, fossil fuels warm my house and power my car. I don’t want the politicians to interfere.

  27. We “could throw so much debris and smoke into the air that it would block life-giving sunlight from our atmosphere”, which of course would cause global temperatures to plunge.

    Or we could just enjoy the warm weather.

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