2018 temps were Earth's fourth-hottest ever

The last five years have been the hottest on record.                  NASA screenshot by CNET

The last five years have been the hottest on record. NASA screenshot by CNET

Specifically, NASA said global temperatures in 2018 were 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit above the average from 1951 to 1980. It ranks as the fourth warmest year on record.

Moreover, 2015 was the first year when global annual average surface temperatures reached 1C above pre-industrial levels, and the following three years have all remained close to this level. The latter two years are virtually indistinguishable because the difference is less than one hundredth of a degree, which is less than the statistical margin of error. The 20 warmest years were in the past 22 years, said WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas.

Many locations around the planet endured extreme weather and climate events in 2018, but the United States was hit particularly hard.

"The key issues in reducing emissions are moving towards renewable fuels for electricity, moving away from internal combustion engines for transport, sequestering carbon more efficiently in agriculture, making better decisions about how we organise our world so that we don't need so much energy", Schmidt said.

It appears highly likely, at least from today's perspective, that that line will be crossed, despite the fact that more than 190 countries have signed the Paris climate agreement, which sets targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Since the 1880s, the average global surface temperature has risen about 2 degrees Fahrenheit (1 degree Celsius).

Because weather station locations and measurement practices change over time, the interpretation of specific year-to-year global mean temperature differences has some uncertainties. Tasmania had its driest January on record, with destructive bushfires. Everywhere in the world, the warmer temperature means extreme weather events, including stronger and more frequent hurricanes. More alarmingly, these expensive calamities are becoming more frequent. In the United States of America, there have been at the same time to extreme cold.

Scientists say such remarks confuse short-term natural variations - that is, weather - with long-term shifts in the climate that are driven by human activity.

Global warming has become a controversial subject in the United States, with the Trump administration withdrawing from the 2015 Paris accord on climate change. A few notable exceptions are the cool region off the west coast of South America due to a weak La Niña, and the intense cold pool of water in the north Atlantic Ocean, which is attributed to the melting of the Greenland ice sheet. Those changes are affecting weather patterns outside the Arctic in the Northern Hemisphere.

"A part of the cold anomalies at lower latitudes could be linked to dramatic changes in the Arctic", he said. "The trend is going relentlessly up, and it will continue to do so", Potsdam Institute climate scientist Stefan Rahmstorf said in an e-mail.

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