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2020 was Europe’s warmest year on record, says EU climate change monitor

Europe had its warmest year on record in 2020, according to worrying findings from the European Union’s climate change monitor. 

Data from Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S) provides another stark warning for humanity regarding climate change, as temperatures have shot up in the last half-decade.  

2020 temperatures in Europe were more than 2.8°F (1.6°C) above the average for between 1981 and 2010, C3S said on Thursday.

They were also at least 0.72°F (0.4°C) warmer than the next five warmest years on record, which all occurred during the last decade – 2019, 2018, 2016, 2015 and 2014. 

Winter and autumn 2020 were the highest on record for Europe, C3S also revealed. 

Winter was more than 6.1°F (3.4°C) above the 1981–2010 average and around 2.5°F (1.4°C) warmer than the previous warmest winter, in 2016. 

Autumn, meanwhile, was close to 3.6°F (2°C) above the 1981-2010 average and 0.9°F (0.5°C) warmer than the previous warmest autumn, in 2018. 

Globally, 2020 was one of three warmest years on record with 2016 and 2019, C3S found. 

 

Europe had its warmest year on record in 2020. Image shows average surface air temperature anomaly for 2020 relative to the 1981–2010 reference period (in °C)

Data from C3S reveals the jump in irregular temperatures in the last six years. 2020 temperatures in Europe were at least 0.72°F (0.4°C) warmer than the next five warmest years, which all occurred during the last decade – 2019, 2018, 2016, 2015 and 2014

Data from C3S reveals the jump in irregular temperatures in the last six years. 2020 temperatures in Europe were at least 0.72°F (0.4°C) warmer than the next five warmest years, which all occurred during the last decade – 2019, 2018, 2016, 2015 and 2014

EURO ABOVE AVERAGE TEMPERATURES  

2020: 2.8°F (1.6°C)

2019: 2.3°F (1.3°C)

2018: 2.1°F (1.2°C)

2017: 1.44°F (0.8°C)

2016: 1.62°F (0.9°C)

2015: 2.1°F (1.2°C)

2014: 2.1°F (1.2°C)

(These figures are based on two data sets – E-OBS and ERA5 – and are relative to the 1981–2010 reference period) 

C3S said it was especially warm over northeastern Europe in the winter, with an impact on snow cover and sea ice.

During the winter, maximum and minimum temperatures in this region were locally up to 10.8°F and 16.2°F (6°C and 9°C) warmer respectively than the 1981-2010 average.  

2020 also saw the largest number of hours of sunshine in Europe since satellite records began in 1983. 

The European Commission-backed C3S published its European State of the Climate 2020 on Thursday, which also includes data for the Arctic and the globe as a whole.

‘The report offers a comprehensive analysis of relevant European climate events, considering multiple contributing climate indicators and putting them into perspective, also within the global context,’ said Carlo Buontempo, director of C3S.

‘Analysing the interplay of variables like temperature, sea ice, precipitation, river discharge or soil moisture underlines the importance of monitoring all parts of our climate system, to understand changing climate trends, with traceability back to the original data. 

Surface air temperature anomalies for winter, spring, summer and autumn 2020, relative to the respective seasonal average for the 1981-2010 reference period. Winter values relate to December 2019 to February 2020

Surface air temperature anomalies for winter, spring, summer and autumn 2020, relative to the respective seasonal average for the 1981-2010 reference period. Winter values relate to December 2019 to February 2020

‘It is more important than ever that we use the available information to act, to mitigate and adapt to climate change and accelerate our efforts to reduce future risks.’ 

C3S did admit that the 2020 heatwaves in Europe were not as intense or long-lived as in recent years. 

However, during summer, episodes of very high temperatures occurred on a regional level and led to new temperature records, such as in Scandinavia in June and in western Europe in August. 

For Europe as a whole, most days saw above-average temperatures relative to the 1981–2010 reference period, and they were consistently well above average during the beginning and end of the year. 

The beginning of spring experienced large daily deviations, whereas the end of spring saw many days close to or below average. 

Daily temperatures during summer were generally above average, except during July, when the daily temperature was below average for parts of the month. 

Daily average European surface air temperature for 2020. The 2020 daily averages are shown as anomalies (above average in cyan, below average in orange) superimposed on the average for the 1981–2010 reference period (in black)

Daily average European surface air temperature for 2020. The 2020 daily averages are shown as anomalies (above average in cyan, below average in orange) superimposed on the average for the 1981–2010 reference period (in black)

Globally, 2020 and 2016 are ‘on a par’ as the warmest two years on record, followed by 2019 (although 2019 was less than 0.07°F behind 2016 and 2020 globally overall).  

The last six years have also been the warmest six on record – corroborating a recent report from the World Meteorological Organization.

Global indicators show that the latest five-year average temperatures are the highest on record – at 2.1°F (1.2°C) above the pre-Industrial Revolution (1850-1900) average, C3S found. 

The largest above-average annual temperatures occurred in northern Siberia and adjacent parts of the Arctic, where temperatures reached 10.8°F (6°C) above average. 

The equatorial Pacific had below average temperatures associated with La Niña conditions that emerged in the second half of the year. 

La Niña – the large-scale cooling of the ocean surface temperatures in the central and eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean – leads to variations in global weather. 

And concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4) – both of which are greenhouse gases – continued to rise in 2020 globally and are at their highest annual levels since at least 2003 when satellite observations began.   

In the Arctic, meanwhile, 2020 was the second warmest year on record with an air surface temperature of 3.9°F (2.2°C) above the 1981-2010 average.      

While the early part of the year was colder than average over large parts of the Arctic, summer and autumn made up for this, according to C3S – both seasons had the highest temperatures on record.

Also, high Arctic temperatures in 2020 mainly resulted from ‘an exceptionally warm’ year in Arctic Siberia.    

Monthly global CO2 concentrations from satellites (top panel) and derived annual mean growth rates (bottom panel) for 2003-2020

Monthly global CO2 concentrations from satellites (top panel) and derived annual mean growth rates (bottom panel) for 2003-2020

2020 was one of three warmest years on RECORD: WMO

2020 was one of three warmest years on record, according to a new report, despite La Niña – the large-scale cooling of the ocean surface temperatures in the Pacific. 

Global average temperatures last year reached around 2.16°F (1.2°C) above the pre-Industrial Revolution levels (1850-1900), revealed the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) in April 2021. 

The six years since 2015 have been the warmest on record, while the period 2011 to 2020 was the warmest decade on record, WMO said in its State of the Global Climate 2020 report, published today.     

Statistically, 2020 was just behind 2016 and just ahead of 2019 in terms of global temperatures, putting it within the top three. 

But a WMO spokesperson told MailOnline that the difference between the three is so small that it falls within the margin of error. 

Overall, the report new documents the various causes and effects of climate crisis, including greenhouse gas concentrations, increasing land and ocean temperatures, sea level rise, melting ice and glacier retreat and extreme weather.

Read more: 2020 was one of three warmest years on record, study says  

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