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We’re still in the middle of running a dangerous experiment on Earth’s climate system, and we get to check the results from time to time—like lab rats peeking across the room at graphs on a whiteboard. And it’s that time again.

Every year, global temperatures can be compared to predictions generated by the physics of greenhouse gases. Several groups around the world maintain global surface temperature datasets. Because of their slightly different methods for computing the global average and the slightly different sets of temperature measurements fed into that calculation, these datasets do not always arrive at the same answer. Lean in enough and you’ll see differences in the data points, which can translate into differences in their respective rankings of the hottest years. On the other hand, the big picture looks exactly the same between them.


NASA, NOAA, And this Berkeley Earth Each group today released its year-end data for 2021, while Japanese Meteorological Agency (JMA) and European Center for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) numbers were already exhausted. They all came up with similar rankings this year. Everyone except the ECMWF placed it as the sixth warmest year on record, while the ECMWF ranked it the fifth. It was very close to 2015 and 2018, so is roughly tied from fifth to seventh. What is true for all datasets is that the last seven years are the warmest seven years on record.

Different datasets use different baselines – mathematically arbitrary zero points to plot the data points – so comparing them can take a little calculator work. Berkeley Earth notes that 2021 is 1.21 °C (2.17 °F) warmer than the 1850–1900 average. NASA has recorded it as 0.85 °C (1.52 °F) warmer than the 1951–1980 baseline.

Individual years will fall slightly above or below the long-term trend line due to the natural variability of the seasons. The El Nio Southern Oscillation (ENSO) is the most common factor that explains why a year ended where it did. This slowing of warm surface water and cold deep water in the equatorial Pacific – and the way it affects the atmospheric circulation above it – affects weather patterns around the world. Last year, La Nia was firmly in range, with cooler waters pushed into the Pacific. This has the effect of pulling down the global average surface temperature.

In 2020, the Pacific Ocean (warm waters) began close to the El Nio state before descending into La Nia conditions. But 2021 generally saw a La Nia. So while 2020 roughly tied 2016 for the warmest year on record, 2021 didn’t quite reach that mark. Given that the current outlook for ENSO sees a return to neutral later this spring, 2022 is Suitable To End Slightly warmer than in 2021.

While surface air temperatures are variable, estimates of the total heat content of the oceans (which contain far more energy than the atmosphere) are much more consistent. latest update 2021 sets a new record high, as heat trapped by a strong greenhouse effect accumulates in Earth’s oceans.

Of course, a lot happens in a year in our climate system, which can be represented with a number. For example, temperatures in Australia and Alaska were close to the 1951–1980 average, while China experienced its warmest year on record. Europe set a new record for summer heat, prompting dry conditions that led to horrific wildfires in Greece.

There was a similar story in the western US, in which widespread droughts led to several fires. The Pacific Northwest experienced a record-crushing heatwave in June — while an unusual February cold snap turned deadly in Texas as frozen natural gas lines (and other problems) produced prolonged power outages. Overall, it was the fourth warmest year on record for the contiguous US.

NOAA is record kept Billions of dollars in (inflation-adjusted) disasters in the US since 1980, and last year added 20 of them to the tally. The average for this entire period is around 7.4 per year, but the average for the last five years is over 17.

Last year, the list included four landfalling hurricanes, tornado outbreaks, hurricanes and those heat waves, cold snaps and wildfires along the Gulf Coast. The year met in a final punch on December 30, when Colorado’s Marshall Fire burned more than a thousand homes and businesses. that event was a combination of wild downslope winds and record dry conditions With second hottest December on record for the state.

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