It’s official: 2020 ranks as the second-hottest year on record for the planet, knocking 2019 down to the third hottest, according to an analysis by NOAA scientists.
The average land and ocean surface temperature across the globe in 2020 was 1.76 degrees F (0.98 of a degree C) above average — just 0.04 of a degree F (0.02 of a degree C) cooler than the 2016 record.
The Northern Hemisphere saw its hottest year on record at 2.30 degrees F (1.28 degrees C) above the 20th-century average.
The world’s seven-warmest years have all occurred since 2014, with 10 of the warmest years occurring since 2005.
It was also Earth’s 44th consecutive year with global land and ocean temperatures, at least nominally, above the 20th-century average, according to scientists at NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information.
2020 as ranked by other scientific organizations
NASA scientists, who conducted a separate but similar analysis, have determined that 2020 ties 2016 as the warmest year on record, sharing the first-place spot.
The state of sea ice
The 2020 average annual Arctic sea ice extent (coverage) was approximately 3.93 million square miles and ties 2016 for the smallest on record. The five smallest Arctic annual extents have occurred in the last five years (2016-20).
The annual Antarctic sea ice extent was near average at 4.44 million square miles.
Additional NOAA findings
- Global tropical cyclones in 2020 tied a record: A total of 103 named storms occurred around the world in 2020, tying the record number seen in 2018. The North Atlantic played an unusually large role in the global activity in 2020, accounting for about 30% of the global accumulated cyclone energy (ACE) and named storms — which is more than twice its usual share.
- Oceans were exceptionally warm: The 2020 annual global sea-surface temperature was the third-highest on record at 1.37 degrees F (0.76 of a degree C) above the 20th-century average — only 2016 and 2019 were warmer. Record-high sea surface temperatures were observed across parts of the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific oceans.
Northern Hemisphere saw sparse snow cover: The average annual Northern Hemisphere snow cover for 2020 was 9.31 million square miles. This was the fourth-smallest annual snow cover in the 1967–2020 record.
December 2020: Last month’s average temperature across global land and ocean surfaces was 1.40 degrees F (0.78 of a degree C) above the 20th-century average, making it the eighth-warmest December in the 1880–2020 record.