2020 Is Tied For the Hottest Year on Record, Reveals NASA Data


Jan 15, 2021


Image credit: NASA

New NASA satellite data reveals that global warming did not abate in 2020, despite pandemic lockdowns. The year is tied with 2016 for the warmest year on record, says the space agency. 

“This is the warmest decade in the historical record without any question whatsoever,” said Gavin Schmidt, a climate scientist and Director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) in New York City. “With these trends, and as the human impact on the climate increases, we have to expect that records will continue to be broken.” 

By most accounts, 2020 has been a rough year for the planet. Massive wildfires scorched Australia, Siberia, and the United States’ west coast – and many of the fires were still burning during the busiest Atlantic hurricane season on record. Climate change has led to longer fire seasons, as vegetation dries out earlier and persistent high temperatures allow fires to burn longer. 

But the popular perception was still that the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced most people around the world to stay home, led to a fall in the ever-rising global temperatures. The agency’s data sheds more light on whether the decrease in air pollution levels seen in 2020 as the pandemic slowed human production, travel and other activity that produces greenhouse gases could translate into measurable gains against global warming over time.

Related on The Swaddle:

September 2020 Is Now the Hottest September on Record

NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) each conduct their separate analysis of global temperatures. But even if 2020 was not the warmest year on record, there is no dispute that each of the past seven years has been among the warmest ever recorded, revealing an alarming trend of rising temperatures. This upward trend is mainly driven by human activity, which leads to increased emissions of carbon dioxide, and other greenhouse gases. Almost all the trends over this period are attributable to human activity, say scientists. 

This year we experienced how heat is expressed on our planet. The large wildfires, intense hurricanes, and ice loss we saw in 2020 are direct consequences of human-induced climate change. And they’re projected to continue and escalate into the next decade – especially if human-induced greenhouse gas emissions continue at the current rate.

Moreover, it is unfortunately clear that the planet’s trajectory towards increasing temperatures will not be halted by a few months shift in human activity. “This isn’t the new normal,” added Schmidt. “This is a precursor of more to come.”


Written By Satviki Sanjay

Satviki Sanjay is an editorial intern at The Swaddle. She’s currently studying philosophy at Miranda House. When not studying, she can be found writing about gender, internet culture, sexuality, technology, and mental health. She loves talking to people, and you can always find her on Instagram @satvikii.


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