The Last Four Years Have Been Earth's Warmest on Record

Chris Dolce
Published: January 8, 2019

Earth had its fourth-warmest year on record in 2018, capping off a run of four years in row where global temperatures were the highest on record, according to Europe's Copernicus Climate Change Service.

The average global temperature across all of Earth's surface was 14.7 degrees Celsius in 2018, or more than 0.4 degrees Celsius above the 1981-2010 average, the agency said. That may not seem far above average, but when it comes to global temperatures, it's a significant margin.

Last year's average global temperature was 0.2 degrees Celsius below the warmest year on record set in 2016. Earth's second- and third-warmest years are 2017 and 2015, respectively.

Global temperatures in 2018 compared to the 1981-2010 average. Orange shaded locations were above average overall in 2018 and blue shaded areas were below average.
(Copernicus Climate Change Services, ECMWF)

Much of the globe had warmer-than-average temperatures in 2018, as depicted in orange on the analysis above. There were a few pockets of cooler-than-average temperatures over northeast North America, central Asia and parts of the northern Atlantic Ocean and southern Pacific Ocean.

Copernicus Climate Change Service said Earth's average temperature for the past five years as a whole was 1.1 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial average.

The Japanese Meteorological Agency (JMA) also found 2018 to be Earth's fourth-warmest year in its period of record dating to 1891. JMA's database says the four warmest years in order are: 2016, 2015, 2017 and 2018.

NOAA and NASA have not released their reports on how global temperatures fared in 2018. It's possible that the temperature data from those two U.S. agencies has been delayed because of the partial government shutdown.

In December, NOAA said 2018 was "virtually certain" to be Earth's fourth-warmest year in its database based on 10,000 simulations they ran through the end of the year.

Carbon Dioxide Concentrations Continued to Rise in 2018

The rise in carbon dioxide concentrations in recent years also continued in 2018, Copernicus Climate Change Service said.

Based on satellite observations, the growth rate of carbon dioxide concentrations on Earth in 2018 was higher than what was observed in 2017.

That said, 2018 had a lower growth rate in carbon dioxide concentrations than in 2015. In that year, the effects of a strong El Niño event gave carbon dioxide concentrations a boost.


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