Skip to main content




2020 likely world's second-hottest year, UN says

This year is on track to be the second hottest on record, behind 2016, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said on Wednesday.

2020 likely world's second-hottest year, UN says

A child cools off under a public fountain, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, during hot summer weather at a park in Tokyo, Japan August 13, 2020. REUTERS/Issei Kato/File Photo

GENEVA: This year is on track to be the second hottest on record, behind 2016, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said on Wednesday (Dec 2).

Five data sets currently place 2020 - a year characterised by heatwaves, droughts, wildfires and raging hurricanes - as the second warmest since records began in 1850. 

"2020 is very likely to be one of the three warmest years on record globally," the Geneva-based United Nations agency said in its State of the Global Climate in 2020 report.

Stoked by extreme heat, wildfires flared across Australia, Siberia and the United States this year, sending smoke plumes around the globe.

READ: Climate change biggest threat to natural World Heritage sites

Less visible was a surge in marine heat to record levels, with more than 80 per cent of the global ocean experiencing a marine heatwave, the WMO said. 

"2020 has, unfortunately, been yet another extraordinary year for our climate," said WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas, urging more efforts to curb the emissions that are fuelling climate change.

"The average global temperature in 2020 is set to be about 1.2 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial level," said Taalas.

"There is at least a one in five chance of it temporarily exceeding 1.5 degrees Celsius by 2024."

Massive wildfires that devastated vast areas in Australia, Siberia, the US West Coast and South America in 2020 have been tied to climate change AFP/JOSH EDELSON

The WMO said 2020 seemed on course to be the second-hottest year ever - but the difference between the top three is small and the picture could change once this year's data sets are complete.

The years from 2015 to 2020 are therefore individually "likely to be the six warmest on record", the report said.

Temperature averages across the last five years, and across the last 10 year period, "are also the warmest on record", it added.

The 2020 provisional State of the Global Climate report is based on temperature data from January to October.

The final 2020 report will be published in March 2021.


Greenhouse gas concentrations climbed to a new record in 2019 and have risen so far this year despite an expected drop in emissions due to COVID-19 lockdowns, the WMO said last month.

Hot years have typically been associated with El Nino, a natural event that releases heat from the Pacific Ocean.  

But this year's opposite La Nina cool phase of the cycle has not been sufficient to keep this year's heat in check - begging the question of how hot 2020 might have got without it.

READ: New Zealand declares climate emergency, promises carbon neutral government by 2025

READ: Japan lawmakers declare climate emergency after government sets net zero emissions goal

The WMO said that more than 80 per cent of the ocean area had experienced at least one marine heatwave so far in 2020.

"Sea level has increased throughout the altimeter record, but recently sea level has risen at a higher rate due partly to increased melting of ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica," the report said.

"In the Arctic, the annual minimum sea-ice extent was the second-lowest on record and record low sea-ice extents were observed in the months of July and October."

A climate pact agreed in Paris five years ago compels countries to make efforts to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, above which scientists warn of catastrophic climate change.

While it is not the same as crossing that long-term warming threshold, the WMO said there is at least a one in five chance of temperatures temporarily, on an annual basis, exceeding that level by 2024.

Source: AGENCIES/gs


Also worth reading