Global Climate Report, 2019
The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Global Climate Reports give a general, data-based overview on the state of the climate for each year. They are intended to give a snapshot of what the climate looked like for each year, as well as place current observations in a historical context. To do this, the NOAA compiles and summarizes data from meteorological centres around the world. For 2019, data are reported for temperature, precipitation, and ocean heat content.
First, 2019 was an abnormally hot year. Average ocean temperature was 0.77 C above historical average, while average temperature on land was 1.42 C, on average, above normal. Overall, 2019 brought a global average temperature almost a full degree warmer than the average of the last 140 years, ranking it as the second hottest year on record, behind 2016. As far as regional effects go, North America was the only continent to have 2019 not listed among its three hottest recorded years. South America experienced severe heat waves, while Europe set several record high temperatures across the continent. Meanwhile, Africa and Asia witnessed annual average temperatures of 1.33 and 1.68 degrees, respectively, above the mean from 1910-2000. Finally, Australia had its warmest year on record, with intense heat waves surpassing historical maximum temperatures.
As far as precipitation goes, some areas experienced abnormally high levels while others had a historically dry year. The atlantic coast of North America was battered with severe tropical storms, which led to devastating cultural and economic consequences. Precipitation records were set across South America as well as southern Europe, while northern European countries experienced drier than average conditions. In Africa, several intense cyclones brought torrential rains and high winds to the eastern coast, bringing flooding and landslides to Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Malawe, and other countries. Meanwhile, Australia experienced its driest year on record, which, in concurrence with record setting temperatures, provided the conditions for the devastating wildfire season in the late months of 2019.
The last metric analyzed by the NOAA in this report is ocean heat content. Oceans absorb about 90% of excess heat in the atmosphere and thus their temperature change is an important indicator of global warming. 2019 set a record for heat content in the upper 2000 metres of the world’s oceans. Perhaps this is unsurprising, as ocean heat content has been rapidly rising since the 1970’s - strikingly, the last 10 years have seen the 10 highest ocean heat content levels, with the 5 highest occuring in the past five years. This is an unprecedented rate of warming, and the report acknowledges that there is no other possible source for this except for an increase in heat trapped in the atmosphere by greenhouse gasses.
2019 was a turbulent year in many ways, and it seems that the climate was no different. By reviewing the annual state of the climate, the NOAA offers a unique chance to look at regional and global trends, and compare current observations to historical ones. With respect to climate change, these reports give a clear view of how quickly and drastically our planet is changing.
Find the full report here.
1. NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information. State of the climate: Global climate report for annual 2019. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. (2020). Available from: https://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/sotc/global/201913