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Menopausal Mother Nature

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2019 Was the Second-Hottest Year Ever, Closing Out the Warmest Decade

Degrees Cooler or Warmer in 2019 Compared to Middle of the 20th Century

United States

Atlantic

Ocean

Pacific

Ocean

Pacific

Ocean

Indian

Ocean

Atlantic

Ocean

South

Africa

Southern

Ocean

Antarctica

Degrees Cooler or Warmer in 2019 Compared to Middle of the 20th Century

United States

Atlantic

Ocean

Pacific

Ocean

Pacific

Ocean

Indian

Ocean

Atlantic

Ocean

South

Africa

Southern

Ocean

Antarctica

Degrees Cooler or Warmer in 2019 Compared to Middle of the 20th Century

United

States

Atlantic

Ocean

Pacific

Ocean

Pacific

Ocean

Indian

Ocean

South

Africa

Southern

Ocean

Antarctica

Degrees Cooler or Warmer in 2019 Compared to Middle of the 20th Century

Degrees Cooler or Warmer in 2019 Compared to Middle of the 20th Century

By The New York Times·Source: NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies | Anomalies shown in reference to the average temperature at each location between 1951 and 1980.

The 2010s were the warmest decade on record, government researchers announced on Wednesday, as global surface temperatures continued their rise linked to greenhouse gas emissions. The five warmest years on record occurred in the last five years, the researchers said, including 2019, which was second-warmest, exceeded only slightly by 2016.

Global Average Temperature

Compared to Middle of the 20th Century

Global Average Temperature Compared to the Middle of the 20th Century

By The New York Times·Source: NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies | Anomalies shown in reference to the average temperature at each location between 1951 and 1980.

Studies released by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration showed that global average surface temperatures last year were nearly 1 degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit) higher than the average from 1951 to 1980.

Temperatures in 2019 were only a small fraction of a degree Celsius lower than in 2016, a year when a strong El Niño pumped a lot of heat from the Pacific Ocean into the atmosphere.

NASA and NOAA conduct independent analyses but use most of the same temperature data, which is gathered at sea from ships and buoys, and on land from tens of thousands of observing stations coordinated by government meteorological agencies. This exhaustive data set is then combed for errors and less obvious factors that might bias the analysis.

The results closely match those from a separate analysis released last week by a European climate agency — one based more on computer modeling than on observational data from 2019 — and were yet more evidence of the relentless warming of the planet caused in large part by emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases from the burning of fossil fuels.

The warming trends “are clear and unequivocal,” said Gavin A. Schmidt, director of the Goddard Institute for Space Studies, which conducted the NASA analysis. “The surface temperature record tells us that the last decade was more than 1 degree Celsius higher than the late 19th century and we know that this has been driven by human activities.”

The 2010s were the hottest decade on record

Temperature anomalies across the globe, 1880-2019

The 2010s were the hottest decade on record

Temperature anomalies across the globe, 1880-2019

The 2010s were the hottest decade on record

Temperature anomalies across the globe, 1880-2019

The 2010s were the hottest decade on record

Temperature anomalies across the globe, 1880-2019

The 2010s were the hottest decade on record

Temperature anomalies across the globe, 1880-2019

By The New York Times·Source: NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies | Anomalies shown in reference to the average temperature at each location between 1951 and 1980.

Only a few parts of the world — most notably central Canada and the Northern Plains in the United States — had cooler conditions. Some regions showed extreme warming, with devastating impacts in some cases. Here’s a look at a few:

Australia

Southeastern Australia is having its worst fire season on record.Sam Mooy/Getty Images

Australia is known for its summer heat, but 2019 was exceptionally warm, with temperatures 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 Fahrenheit) higher than the mid-20th century average, according to the Australian government’s Bureau of Meteorology. Combined with low rainfall totals — in December the country had the least rainfall on record — the heat has contributed to a severe drought that has gripped most of the country since 2017.

The heat has also helped fuel wildfires that began in September and have continued burning across much of Eastern Australia. Prolonged heat dries out vegetation, making it more susceptible to burning.

Alaska

Alaska recorded its hottest month in July 2019.Joshua Corbett for The New York Times

Last year was Alaska’s warmest on record, NOAA reported in an analysis this month. All-time temperature records were set across the state, including in Anchorage, the largest city. On a weekend in early July, there were back-to-back days of record-high average temperatures statewide.

But 2019 only continued a long-term warming trend, one that has led to increased melting of the state’s thousands of glaciers, thawing of permanently frozen ground, or permafrost, and a lack of sea-ice coverage in some of the Arctic waters surrounding the state.

The Bering Sea, off Alaska’s northwest coast, was ice-free for much of last year. Satellite images taken in late March showed largely open water at a time when the sea is normally completely covered in ice. The lack of ice is thought to have contributed to the increased warming across the state — a climate feedback loop in which warming creates conditions that lead to more warming.

Southern Africa

The drought-stricken Okavango Delta in northern Botswana.Monirul Bhuiyan/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

As in Australia, extreme heat in southern Africa has contributed to the region’s worst drought in decades.

Zambia and Zimbabwe are most affected, with millions of people suffering food shortages as production of maize and other grains declines by 30 percent or more.

The countries’ electricity supply is also at risk, as water levels along the Zambezi, one of Africa’s major rivers, are exceptionally low. Under normal conditions Zambia and Zimbabwe get about halt of their electricity from a dam on the Zambezi; the reservoir behind the dam is currently at less than 20 percent of capacity.

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