2020: the year of the COVID-19 pandemic was also the hottest in history

Climate change does not understand pandemics. The European Copernicus network today reveals that 2020 is on par with 2016 as the hottest years on record globally. For its part, the European Continent experienced the hottest year in history by far, due in large part to the high temperatures that Siberia recorded for most of the year.

In Europe, temperatures exceeded the previous record held in 2019 by 0.4 ºC, as revealed by the C3S Climate Change Service of Copernicus, the Earth observation network of the European Union. The last six years have been the hottest on record.

It is precisely this succession of records, in such years to come, that most worries science, which sees irrefutable evidence of a faster global warming than had been predicted to date.

It should be noted that 2016 was marked by an episode of the El Niño phenomenon, which tends to increase temperatures. On the contrary, the year 2020 was marked by the cooling of the La Niña but it was not enough to reduce the global average and both years end on par in the global calculation. Without these weather events, 2020 would have been much warmer than 2016.

For the scientific community, it is also increasingly clear that this succession of global and regional temperature records are the consequence of human activity and greenhouse gas emissions. Well, despite the efforts and the slowdown in the global economy due to the confinements linked to COVID-19, we have continued to increase CO2 emissions. It has been noted that the year-on-year increase is slightly lower than that of 2019 compared to 2018.

The year 2020 was 1.25º C above the average of the pre-industrial era, which means that we are on the verge of the 1.5º C limit set by world powers in the Paris Agreement. Experts consider that from this level of temperature rise, drastic changes in the global climate will begin to occur. From 2ºC catastrophic consequences are feared.

If emission reduction commitments are maintained, current models predict global warming of between 2.8º C and 3.2º.

Global warming? With this cold?

In places like Spain, it just got over its record low temperatures, with -35.8º C It may sound a bit outdated, but global warming is not incompatible with extreme cold spells, on the contrary. Climatologists agree that human-induced climate change runs the risk of multiplying weather extremes of all kinds by modifying weather patterns.

In fact, the cold that grips all of Europe these days is due in part to the fact that the Arctic region is registering much higher temperatures than the normal average for this time of year.

This episode is precisely driven by abnormal stratospheric warming in the Arctic, which has displaced the polar vortex, the current of cold air that normally circulates at the North Pole, towards Europe and the western US.

Furthermore, in Spain this polar cold has been added to the arrival of the storm Filomena.

The doctor in Physics and meteorologist at Eltiempo.es Mar Gómez explains that one of the most widespread theories is that global warming is causing alterations in the jet stream, which regulates the planet’s climate. “The thermal increase, especially in the Arctic compared to the tropics, is causing this current to slow down and become more wavy.

This implies that we can have more severe cold air incursions in winter, but also more intense and prolonged heat waves during the summer, “he says.

Although it also remembers that you have to differentiate the climatology from the weather, the daily meteorology. “I like to say that the weather is like our personality (more robust in time) and the weather is like the mood, which fluctuates every day. Because we have a warming trend it does not mean that we do not have specific situations in which there are events Nothing prevents us from having significant episodes of snowfall or even severe winters for the moment, but the general trend continues to increase in temperatures. What counts is the trend and points to the rise in temperatures, although these days we see the opposite. In the case of Madrid now it snows less than before, but it can continue to do so “.

Earth’s thermostat, broken

The Arctic is, along with Antarctica, one of the thermostats of the global climate. There the consequences of climate change are advancing twice as fast and intense as in the rest of the globe.

The year 2020 was practically a continuous heat wave in Siberia. In some areas, temperatures were up to 6ºC above average. Consequently the season of arctic fires it broke all records by emitting 244 megatons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, a third more than in 2020.

Also epic were the australian fires, at the beginning of the year, and this fall in California and other states off the west coast of the U.S.

The surface of arctic ocean sea ice It has been at historic lows in various periods of the year, but has not exceeded the record of 2012.

In Antarctica, however, the ice is recovering, albeit very slowly, from the record low reached in 2016.