Climate change: 2010s were hottest decade on record

15 January 2020, 19:34

Last decade was the hottest on record, scientists confirmed
Last decade was the hottest on record, scientists confirmed. Picture: PA
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

The world has endured its hottest decade on record with 2019 temperatures among the highest ever seen, scientists have confirmed.

Last year saw thermometers being pushed to the limit, with 2019 experiencing the second-highest average global temperatures since records began in the 19th century.

The only year that was hotter was 2016, which experienced a boost from a significant El Nino weather pattern in the Pacific.

Multiple data sets also reveal that the past five years were the warmest in the 170-year series.

One set was compiled by US agencies Nasa and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, with records dating back to 1880.

They found that 2019 was the second hottest on record.

The 2010s pushed UK thermometers to the limit
The 2010s pushed UK thermometers to the limit. Picture: PA

Similarly, another set of figures were produced by scientists at the Met Office Hadley Centre, the University of East Anglia's Climatic Research Unit and the UK National Centre for Atmospheric Science

They took millions of measurements of air and sea surface temperature from across the world - recording data on all continents and from all oceans.

Their statistics showed that 2019 temperatures were 1.05C above pre-industrial levels, making it the third-warmest year since 1850.

The slight difference between the two sets are mostly down to how scientists account for the polar regions, where data is at a premium.

However, the sets agreed on the last five years being the warmest half-decade chunk since global records began.

Dr Colin Morice, from the Met Office Hadley Centre, said: "Our collective global temperature figures agree that 2019 joins the other years from 2015 as the five warmest years on record.

"Each decade from the 1980s has been successively warmer than all the decades that came before.

"2019 concludes the warmest 'cardinal' decade, those spanning years ending 0-9, in records that stretch back to the mid-19th century."

Further extreme weather is expected throughout the 2020s
Further extreme weather is expected throughout the 2020s. Picture: PA

He added: "While we expect global mean temperatures to continue to rise in general, we don't expect to see year-on-year increases because of the influence of natural variability in the climate system."

Professor Tim Osborn, director of research at the Climatic Research Unit, said: "We are confident that the world has warmed by about 1C since the late 19th century because different methods of working out the global temperature give very similar results."

Meanwhile, the Bureau of Meteorology in Australia - where wildfires have been raging amid record temperatures - also recently confirmed that 2019 was the warmest and driest year on record for the country.

World Meteorological Organisation secretary-general Petteri Taalas said ocean heat was at record levels and, on the current emissions path, the world was heading for 3C-5C of warming by 2100.

"Unfortunately, we expect to see much extreme weather throughout 2020 and the coming decades, fuelled by record levels of heat-trapping greenhouse gases in the atmosphere," he added.