Jan 24, 2019

2018 was the fourth warmest year on record — and more evidence of a ‘new normal,’ scientist group reports

United States
by
Chris Mooney
,
Washington Post
In this photo taken on November 10, 2018 Flames from the Camp fire burn near a home atop a ridge near Big Bend, California. Photo: Josh Edelson, AFP/Getty Images
In this photo taken on November 10, 2018 Flames from the Camp fire burn near a home atop a ridge near Big Bend, California. Photo: Josh Edelson, AFP/Getty Images

The year 2018 is likely to have been the fourth warmest year on record, a scientific group pronounced Thursday — and joins three other extra-hot years since 2015 that suggest a leap upward in warmth that the Earth may never return from in our lifetimes.

The warmest year on record for the Earth’s land and oceans was 2016 — by a long shot, thanks to a very strong El Nino event. That’s followed by 2017, 2015, and now 2018, said Zeke Hausfather, a research scientist with Berkeley Earth, which released the findings.

“2018 is consistent with the long term warming trend,” Hausfather said. “It’s significantly warmer than any of the years before 2015. There’s still this big bump up after 2014, and 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018 are all in a class of their own.”

While expert groups have sometimes divided on such annual temperature rankings — and not all assessments are yet in — Berkeley Earth’s findings appear unlikely to be disputed.

The Copernicus Climate Change Service, a European Union body, has also proclaimed 2018 the fourth warmest year on record earlier this month.

And Kevin Cowtan, a researcher at the University of York who also keeps an influential temperature dataset, agreed with the ranking, though he noted by email that he is only able to track data through November of last year due to the U.S. government shutdown, leaving his assessment one month short at present.

“Our results to November clearly put 2018 in 4th place, significantly warmer than 2010 in 5th,” said Cowtan. “The 11 hottest years on record have all occurred since 2005.”