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Heat records have fallen around the world in 2020, says World Meteorological Organisation

By Ben Deacon, Thursday December 3, 2020 - 12:53 EDT
ABC licensed image
Global temperatures are continuing to break records — from the Arctic to Death Valley. - ABC licensed

2020 will be one of the three warmest years on record globally, according to a new State of the Global Climate report from the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO).



An agency of the United Nations, the WMO said only 2016 had been hotter than 2020 so far ? and only by a small margin.

"The average global temperature in 2020 is set to be about 1.2 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial [1850-1900] level," WMO secretary-general Petteri Taalas said.

According to the report, the past six years were the hottest six years in history.

"Their records go back to the mid 19th century, so the record's now 170 years long," said Emeritus Professor Neville Nicholls from the School of Geography and Environmental Science at Monash University.

"The top six warmest years have all occurred in the past six years. Now, that's an amazing statistic to a statistics nerd like me," he said.



Record heat despite La Niña



The WMO said the warmest year on record to date ? 2016 ? began with an exceptionally strong El Niño, which contributed to elevated global temperatures.

Despite the cooling effect of this year's La Niña, the WMO said the warmth of 2020 had been comparable to that of 2016.

"Normally we would get respite in a La Niña year where it would be a bit cooler than usual," ANU School of Earth Sciences climatologist Nerilie Abram said.

"But what we're seeing is with climate change we're breaking those rules. So La Niñas are no longer cool.

"In fact, it looks like this La Niña is going to be of an equivalent warmth to the strong El Niño that we had just a few years ago.



Professor Abram said the El Niño year of 1998 was once Australia's hottest year on record.



"Now that year doesn't even rank in our in our top six and La Niña years are now warmer than that," she said.

This week , despite a La Niña weather pattern.

The WMO report said south-eastern Australia was cooler this year than the 1981 to 2010 average, although it only included January to October temperature observations.

Heat records fall around the world in 2020

The World Meteorological Organisation said Australia broke heat records in early 2020, including the highest observed temperatures in an Australian metropolitan area ? Penrith, in western Sydney, reached 48.9C on January 4.

In the United States, Death Valley in California reached 54.4C on August 16 ? the highest known temperature in the world in at least the past 80 years.



The Siberian Arctic saw temperatures more than 5C above average. Siberian heat culminated in late June, when it reached 38.0C at Verkhoyansk on June 20 ? provisionally the highest known temperature ever recorded in the Arctic.

The difference in temperatures between 2016 and 2020 are close enough that final temperature records may not be known until the end of the year.

"It looks like it's going to be neck and neck to the finish line as to whether 2020 becomes the hottest year on record or not," Professor Abram said.


- ABC

© ABC 2020

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