2019 Was the Second-Hottest Year on Record

2019 was the second-hottest year on record, capping what scientists say is the warmest decade on record, according to a new analysis by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and NASA. The five warmest years on record have all occurred since 2015, and nine of the 10 warmest have occurred since 2005, federal researchers said.

Last year was also the 43rd consecutive year in which global temperatures measured above average. Global temperatures in 2019 averaged 1.71 degrees Fahrenheit (0.95 degree Celsius) above the 20th century average — just 0.07 degree F below the 2016 record.

“The decade that just ended is clearly the warmest decade on record,” climate scientist Gavin Schmidt, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, said in a statement. “Every decade since the 1960s clearly has been warmer than the one before.”

The announcement coincides with similar findings from the World Meteorological Organization and the European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service. The United Kingdom Met Office declared 2019 the third-hottest year on record.

Several parts of the world — including regions in central Europe, Asia, Australia, southern Africa, New Zealand, Alaska, Mexico, and eastern South America — all set new record-high land temperatures in 2019. Scientists also announced this week that the world’s oceans hit their warmest level on record in 2019, and that the “pace of [ocean] warming has increased about 500 percent since the late 1980s.”

Yearly temperature anomalies from 1880 to 2019, with respect to the 1951-1980 mean.

Yearly temperature anomalies from 1880 to 2019, with respect to the 1951-1980 mean. Credits: NASA GISS/Gavin Schmidt

The average land surface temperature in 2019 was 2.56 degrees F (1.42 degrees C) above the 20th century average, according to NASA and NOAA. Sea surface temperatures measured 1.39 degrees F (0.77 d C) above the 20th century average.

Globally, average annual temperatures — both on land and sea — have increased at a rate of 0.13 degrees F per decade since 1880. But scientists warn that warming has substantially sped up in recent years, with average temperatures increasing 0.32 degrees F per decade since 1981.

“We crossed over into more than 2 degrees Fahrenheit warming territory in 2015 and we are unlikely to go back,” Schmidt said. “This shows that what’s happening is persistent, not a fluke due to some weather phenomenon: we know that the long-term trends are being driven by the increasing levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.”