Speed Reads

climate change is real and it's happening

2020 ties for warmest year on record, continuing 7-year hot streak

2020 has tied with 2016 for the hottest year on record — and there's no end to the warming in sight.

A wave of scientific institutions' analyses released in the past week point to a "photo finish" between the two years for the hottest on record, Zeke Hausfather, a climate expert at the Breakthrough Institute, told The Washington Post. And regardless of which year is on top, 2020 and the six years before it make up the top 7 hottest years in more than a century and a half of recorded history, once again showing how human-caused global warming is continuing to warp the planet.

When looking at the top two finishes, 2016 had everything it needed to be a hot year, experiencing an El Niño event that brings warm waters to the Pacific and hotter temperatures as a result. Meanwhile 2020 saw a La Niña, which usually brings cooler weather. But even the chilly phenomenon couldn't dampen the Earth's increasingly hot streak. A tenth of the planet can count 2020 as its hottest year, leading to wildfires above the Arctic Circle and the busiest Atlantic hurricane season on record, reports the Post. Those wildfires have a compounding effect, as they released massive amounts of carbon dioxide that will likely only add to the Earth's warming.

The past year's La Niña didn't emerge until September, meaning its strongest effects will likely be reserved for 2021, Gavin Schmidt, the director of NASA's Goddard Institute, noted to The New York Times. So while 2021 probably won't be a "record-warm year," it'll likely be "another top-five year, and clearly part of the string of very warm years that we've been having," Schmidt said. See just where 2020's record heat had its strongest effects at The New York Times.