The nine years spanning 2013-2021 all rank among the 10 hottest on record, according to an annual report by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) published Thursday, the latest data underscoring the global climate crisis.
For 2021, the average temperature across global surfaces was 1.51 degrees Fahrenheit (0.84 degrees Celsius) above the 20th-century average, making the year the sixth-hottest in the overall record, which goes back to 1880.
“There’s probably a 99 percent chance that 2022 will rank in the top 10, a 50-50 chance, maybe a little less, it’ll rank in the top five, and a 10 percent chance it’ll rank first” barring an unforeseen event like a major volcanic eruption or a large comet hitting Earth, he said.
A separate analysis of global temperature released by NASA had 2021 tying with 2018 as the sixth-warmest on record.
But the overall convergence of trends increases scientists’ confidence in their conclusions.
Climate scientists say it is crucial to hold end-of-century warming to within a 1.5C (2.7F) rise to avert the worst impacts — from mega-storms to mass die-offs in coral reefs and the decimation of coastal communities.
“But it’s not the case that at 1.4 everything is hunky dory and at 1.6 all hell has broken loose,” said NASA climate expert Gavin Schmidt.
Last year also saw nearly 700 people die in the contiguous United States due to extreme weather events, such as Hurricane Ida, and a maximum temperature in Sicily of nearly 120F, a European record if verified.
The heat records observed in 2021 came despite the year beginning in a cold phase thanks to an El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO) episode across the central and eastern tropical Pacific Ocean.
The Northern Hemisphere land surface temperature was the third highest on record. The 2021 Southern Hemisphere surface temperature was the ninth highest on record.
There were no cold records broken for land or ocean areas.
Meanwhile, with the exception of September and December, each month of 2021 had Arctic sea ice levels in the top-10 lowest levels for those respective months.