2016: Earth’s Third Consecutive Warmest Year on Record

It’s official, 2016 was the warmest year ever recorded on this planet.

According to a report by NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information, Earth’s combined average temperature for the year – over both land and sea surfaces – was 58.69°F. That is a staggering 1.69°F above the 20th-century average and surpasses the previous annual record that was set just last year. That makes 2016 the third year in a row to break a global temperature record.

As remarkable as this feat is, it does not come as much of a surprise. During the year, eight new global monthly temperature records were set.

A strong El Niño event influenced this record warmth, but it does not tell the whole story as it dissipated in June and was replaced by its cooler counterpart, La Niña, in the autumn. Therefore, the long-term trend of human-caused climate change was also a key factor. NOAA reports that 2016 marked the 40th consecutive year that our annual global temperature was above its long-term norm.

While heat dominated the planet last year, some places were particularly warm. Here in the contiguous US, it was our second warmest year on record.

Looking at the bigger picture, all sixteen years of this century rank among the seventeen warmest ever recorded and five were record breakers (2005, 2010, 2014, 2015, and 2016). As greenhouse gases – the main drivers of global warming – continue to spew into the atmosphere, temperatures will continue to rise and records will likely continue to fall. Global temperature records date back to 1880.

2016 was Earth’s third consecutive warmest year on record. Credit: NOAA