Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Fire and Rescue personnel run to move their truck as a bushfire burns next to a major road and homes on the outskirts of the town of Bilpin on December 19, 2019 in Sydney

Fire and Rescue personnel run to move their truck as a bushfire burns next to a major road and homes on the outskirts of the town of Bilpin on December 19, 2019 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo: David Gray/Getty Images)

'Unquestionably Alarming Signs': New Data Confirms Earth Just Had Hottest Decade on Record

2019 was also the second warmest year on record, and the past five years were the five warmest on record.

Andrea Germanos

New data out Wednesday from federal and international scientists that confirmed 2019 was the second-warmest year on record and capped off the warmest decade on record underscores the scale of the global crisis, said climate advocates.

The temperature data was released in the U.S. by NOAA and NASA. The World Meteorological Organization, which consolidates analysis from NOAA and NASA as well as datasets from the U.K.'s Met Office and the University of East Anglia's Climatic Research Unit, the European Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasts and its Copernicus Climate Change Service, and the Japan Meteorological Agency, also issued its findings Wednesday.

"The decade that just ended is clearly the warmest decade on record," said Gavin Schmidt, director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies. "Every decade since the 1960s clearly has been warmer than the one before."

The agencies also drew attention to the record warmth from 2015-2019—a time frame that included warmest-year-on-the-books 2016, which, unlike 2019, included a strong El Niño event.

"The past five years have been the five warmest on record; the last decade has been the warmest on record: These are unquestionably alarming signs," said Jean-Noël Thépaut, director of ECMWF Copernicus.

The trajectory the Earth is headed in is leading towards even more dangerous levels of heating.

"On the current path of carbon dioxide emissions, we are heading towards a temperature increase of 3 to 5 degrees Celsius by the end of century," said WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas.

NOAA drew attention to a number of highlights from its latest global climate report:

  • 2019 marks the 43rd consecutive year (since 1977) with global land and ocean temperatures at least nominally above the twentieth-century average. 
  • The five warmest years have occurred since 2015; nine of the 10 warmest years have occurred since 2005. The year 1998 is the only twentieth-century year among the 10 warmest years on record.
  • The annual global land and ocean temperature has increased at an average rate of +0.13°F (+0.07°C) per decade since 1880; however, since 1981 the average rate of increase is more than twice that rate (+0.32°F / +0.18°C).
  • For the 21-year span that is considered a reasonable surrogate for pre-industrial conditions (1880–1900), the 2019 global land and ocean temperature was 2.07°F (1.15°C) above the average.

2020 has heightened concerns over continued warming.

"The year 2020 has started out where 2019 left off—with high-impact weather and climate-related events," said Taalas. "Australia had its hottest, driest year on record in 2019, setting the scene for the massive bushfires which were so devastating to people and property, wildlife, ecosystems, and the environment."

"Unfortunately," he continued, "we expect to see much extreme weather throughout 2020 and the coming decades, fueled by record levels of heat-trapping greenhouse gases in the atmosphere."

Advocacy group 350 Canada, in a tweet, said the need for urgent action to address the climate crisis, including Green New Deal legislation and making those most responsible pay, is clear.

"Last decade was the hottest on record. And 2020 is starting off with climate impacts of an unimaginable scale," the group said. "That is why this decade we make the fossil fuel industry pay for climate justice and fight like hell for a #GreenNewDeal."


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Simply Don't Exist.

160 Patient Advocates Demand Medicare Negotiation in Build Back Better Package

"We're confident that inclusion of comprehensive drug pricing reforms in the reconciliation package will lower prices, save lives, and ensure continued development of innovative new drugs."

Jessica Corbett ·


'Cartoonish Level Corrupt': As Dems Fight for Bold Agenda, Sinema to Fundraise With Its Corporate Opponents

"Sinema is setting her political future on fire," said one Democratic organizer. "If she doesn't change course drastically and soon, it will be too late."

Brett Wilkins ·


'Momentous Win': Years of Local Opposition Defeats PennEast Pipeline

Opponents in Pennsylvania and New Jersey cheer "cancellation of this unneeded, dangerous fracked gas pipeline."

Jessica Corbett ·


Amid Calls for Closure, House Dems Urge NYC Officials to End 'Inhumane Conditions' at Rikers

A dozen prisoners have died this year alone at the notoriously violent and overcrowded jail complex.

Brett Wilkins ·


'Quite Literally What Instigated the Tunisian Revolution': Outrage After NYC Food Vendor's Stall 'Trashed'

"The abuse of street vendors will continue until there is legislative change, creating a pathway for New York City's smallest businesses to formalize."

Kenny Stancil ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.


Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo