Another sweltering year for Earth
Global temperatures in 2018 were the fourth-highest since records began in 1880, according to new analyses by NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. That means that the five hottest years on record have been the past five, and that 18 of the 19 warmest years have occurred since 2001. The world’s average surface temperature in 2018 was nearly 1 degree Celsius—1.8 degrees Fahrenheit—above the late-19th-century average. Climate scientists believe that an increase of 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels will have catastrophic and irreversible consequences for the world. “We’re no longer talking about a situation where global warming is something in the future,” NASA climatologist Gavin Schmidt tells The New York Times. “It’s here. It’s now.” The sudden temperature spike correlates with increasing levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere from the burning of fossil fuels. That warming likely contributed to extreme weather events around the globe last year, from fierce heat waves in Australia to coastal flooding in the U.S. Scientists have also linked climate change to the growing ferocity of hurricanes, and to the polar vortex that recently brought freezing blasts of Arctic air to the Midwest and Northeast. As well as being the fourth-hottest year on record, 2018 was also the fourth most expensive for weather disasters in the U.S., with a total damage bill of $91 billion.