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Scientists Warn 2020 on Pace to Become Hottest Year Ever as September Heat Smashes Previous Record

"This is a trend that will continue if we don't curb greenhouse gas emissions."

Firefighters perform structure protection against the Glass Fire in Napa County, California on Thursday, October 1, 2020. (Photo: Getty Images)

European Union scientists warned Wednesday that 2020 is on pace to overtake 2016 as the hottest year on record after last month was confirmed to be the warmest September ever, with the climate crisis driving temperatures to unprecedented highs, fueling devastating wildfires across the Western United States, and melting Arctic sea ice at an alarming rate.

"Globally and in Europe, September 2020 was the warmest September on record, with the global average 0.05°C warmer than the previous warmest September in 2019," the European Union's Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S) said in an analysis released Wednesday morning. "Temperatures were well above average in many regions across the globe, including off the coast of northern Siberia, in the Middle East, in parts of South America, and Australia."

Freja Vamborg, a senior scientist with C3S, told NBC News that the record-shattering heat in September is yet another indication that immediate and ambitious cuts to carbon emissions are necessary to avert global climate catastrophe.

"The last five years have themselves been the five warmest on record," said Vamborg. "The world has already warmed at least one degree (1.8°F) above the pre-industrial era, and this is a trend that will continue if we don't curb greenhouse gas emissions."

In April, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) estimated that there is a 75% chance 2020 will end up being the hottest year on record—and a 99.9% chance it will rank in the top five warmest.

"As we go into an even warmer world, certain extremes are likely to happen more often and be more intense," said Vamborg. "The Earth has warmed a lot, and it will carry on warming if greenhouse gas emissions continue at the rate they are at the moment."

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