Its official, 2018 was the fourth warmest year ever recorded on this planet. Only 2015, 2016, and 2017 were warmer.
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 58.42°F. That is 1.42°F above the 20th-century average.
2018 also marked the 42nd consecutive year with a global temperature above its long-term norm. That means every year since 1976 has posted a warmer than average annual temperature.
While heat dominated most of the planet last year, some places were particularly warm. Record heat was measured across much of Europe and the Middle East. Here in the contiguous US, it was the fourteenth warmest year on NOAA’s books. Alaska, however, was even warmer with its second warmest year ever recorded.
The exceptional warmth of 2018 is largely attributed to the long-term trend of human-caused climate change. While El Niño conditions helped influence record heat in the past, 2018 saw the cooling effects of La Niña in the beginning of the year with ENSO neutral conditions prevailing after April.
Looking at the bigger picture, nine of the ten warmest years on record have occurred since 2005, with the last five years ranking as the five warmest on record. The only year from the 20th century included on the top ten list is 1998, which is tied with 2009 as the planet’s ninth warmest year on record.
As greenhouse gases – the main driver 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.