Last year was the world’s second-warmest year, capping off the hottest decade on record, according to experts at NOAA and NASA.
And here’s another record to add to the pile: The past five years were collectively the warmest since record-keeping began about 140 years ago. 2019’s temperatures were second only to 2016, coming in around 1.7 degrees Fahrenheit above the 20th-century average, per NOAA.
“The decade that just ended is clearly the warmest decade on record,” NASA’s Gavin Schmidt said in a statement. “Every decade since the 1960s clearly has been warmer than the one before.”
This warming trend, scientists say, is undoubtedly the result of human-made climate change. “It really can’t be explained any other way,” Schmidt told reporters during a Wednesday press briefing.
“We are experiencing the impacts of global warming unfolding literally in real time,” said Noah Diffenbaugh, an earth science professor at Stanford University not involved in the newly released analyses. “We now have clear evidence that people and ecosystems are being impacted across the world, from the equator to the poles, from both in the ocean and on land, from the coastal areas to the high elevations.”
For some places worldwide, including Alaska and Australia, 2019 brought record warmth. Some other notable events from the past year included Hurricane Dorian, the strongest hurricane to strike the Bahamas; Tropical Storm Iba, the first tropical cyclone to form in the south Atlantic Basin since 2010; Typhoon Hagibis, one of the most rapidly intensifying storms to form in the western north Pacific Ocean; and Tropical Cyclone Idai, one of the deadliest storms to strike in the southwest Indian Ocean basin.
The twin government analyses, released Wednesday, come on the heels of a new study in the journal Advances in Atmospheric Sciences concluding that the world’s oceans in 2019 were the warmest since record-keeping began around the 1950s, capping off an exceptionally warm 10-year streak for the oceans.
Meanwhile, Australia continues to struggle with unprecedented bushfires that have destroyed thousands of homes, shrouded large swaths of the country in unhealthy smoke levels, and killed more than a dozen people and thousands and thousands of animals.
“We know that the climatic conditions that enable dangerous fires are increasing globally,” Colin Beale, a biology professor at the University of York who has studied climate and fire impacts, told BuzzFeed News in an email. “We also know that the current fire season is exceptional (a product primarily of the Indian Ocean Dipole, a weather phenomenon that has now ended, probably exacerbated by underlying climate change) and is unlikely to be repeated again very soon — but could become normal if climate change is not tackled adequately.”