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Record Temperatures for Greenhouse Gases, Sea Levels and Temperatures in 2020

A report released by the American Meteorological Society, which assesses climatic changes in 60 countries, based on the data received from approximately 530 scientists, reveals that several climate indicators, such as greenhouse gases, sea levels and temperatures hit record heights in 2020.  

Worryingly, the level of greenhouse gases on Earth were the highest ever recorded, while the average annual atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2), for example, was set at 412.5 parts per million (ppm). This number, recorded in a year in which the Covid-19 pandemic reached a global scale and slowed economic activity around the world, represents an increase of 2.5 parts per million compared to 2019, and a record, both in the last 62 years (since records began), and in 8,000 years, as recorded in ‘ice cores.’

The situation was duplicated with methane levels, whose atmospheric concentration registered, in 2020, showed an increase of 14.8 parts per billion compared to the previous year, the biggest increase since methane measurements were introduced.

Sea levels also continued to rise, setting a new record for the ninth consecutive year.

Compared to 1993, when sea level measurements began to be recorded by satellite, the worlds oceans have risen by 9.13 centimeters.  Meaning, that every decade, global sea levels are rising by about three centimeters, as a result of melting melting icecaps due to ocean and atmospheric warming.

Following the same worsening trend, land and sea surface temperatures rose again.

Since 2014, which was the hottest year on record, both sea and land surface temperatures for 2020 are in the top ‘top three hottest years,’ and only surpassed by the years when the El Niño phenomena were registered (2016 and 2019).

Last year, annual Earth surface temperatures were between 0.54°C and 0.62°C above the 1981-2010 average (variation depends on the database used), demonstrating that the earth is warming at an average rate of 0.08°C per decade.

Particularly affected areas are at the North and South poles, unprecedented extreme heat temperatures were recorded. The average air temperature in Arctic land areas was the highest in 121 years on record, 2.1°C above the 1981–2010 average, and in Antarctica temperatures exceeded 18°C.

On the 6th of February, Argentina’s Esperanza base research station reached 18.3°C, the highest temperature ever recorded, surpassing its 2015 record of 17.2°C.

According to the report, which details the situation in different areas of the planet, the winter of 2020 was the second warmest on the Iberian Peninsula, especially in February.  Portugal, on the other hand, recorded extreme temperatures in July, the hottest ever.

The oceans were also warmer, with the global average sea surface temperature close to the record, standing at the third highest recorded (only in 2016 and 2019 were there higher values, associated with El Niños).

Cyclone activity was also above average, and last year 102 tropical storms were named during the Northern and Southern hemisphere storm season, a significantly higher number compared to the average of 85 between 1981 and 2010.

Of those 102 storms, three tropical cyclones reached category five intensity on the Saffir-Simpson scale, and among 30 recorded in the North Atlantic hurricane basin (also a record number), seven became category three or higher major hurricanes.

In the western North Pacific, Super Typhoon Goni was the strongest tropical cyclone to hit the coast in historical record, having forced the evacuation of nearly one million people in the Philippines. Cyclone Gati, a very severe cyclonic storm which formed in the Arabian Sea, was the first of such intensity to hit Somalia.

This is not good news……

Samantha Gannon

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