2016 declared Earth’s hottest year on record

The 40th consecutive year with a global temperature above the 20th century average has just ended, with another record.

A polar bear wanders across the ice floes in the Canadian Arctic [Getty]
A polar bear wanders across the ice floes in the Canadian Arctic [Getty Images]

Consistent with expectations, 2016 has been declared the world’s warmest year since reliable record-keeping began in 1880, according to US scientists.

The global average surface temperature comes out at 14.88C which is precise and only usable as a statistical comparison. Within the year, there were many temperature records broken, maybe rather better illustrating the point.

The highest temperature ever recorded by properly exposed thermometer was observed in Mitribah, in Kuwait, and was 54C (129.2F). There has been much investigation into whether California’s Death Valley has ever recorded higher but it seems it has not, reliably.

READ MORE: 2016 on course to be hottest year on record

Twenty-two separate nations or territories recorded tied or new record-high temperatures; this too is a record, with the previous number being 18 nations and territories in 2010.

Only one record for all-time cold was noted; that of Tai Mo Shan in Honk Kong, up at 950m and at -6C – this is only a 20-year period of recording.

The strong El Nino of 2015/16, which moved vast amounts of warm water from west to east across the tropical Pacific, had an effect on the surface temperature, calculated to be about 0.2C.

But even without this, 2016 would have been the warmest. In fact, if the influence of all El Nino events from the record was removed, there would still be the relentless warming trend.

Maybe more noticeably in 2016 than in any other year was the warming of the Arctic.

Arctic sea ice set new records for low coverage of the sea surface in seven months of 2016. In November and December, the Antarctic too set new low ice extent records.

Each of the past three years has beaten the one preceding it. Every year of this century appears in the list of top 17 warmest years, with 1998 tying with 2009. 2016 was also the 40th consecutive year recording a global temperature above the 20th century average.

Factual input from Jeff Masters and Bob Henson of Weather Underground

Source: Al Jazeera