(NEXSTAR) — Among other trials the world faced in 2020, the year will go down as one of the hottest on record, according to a new NASA analysis.
While the NASA study found 2020 to be the hottest so far, taking into consideration the study’s margin of error ties 2020 with 2016 for the warmest year.
“The last seven years have been the warmest seven years on record, typifying the ongoing and dramatic warming trend,” said Gavin Schmidt, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, in a statement. “Whether one year is a record or not is not really that important – the important things are long-term trends. With these trends, and as the human impact on the climate increases, we have to expect that records will continue to be broken.”
Consistent with recent decades’ warming trends, the Earth’s global surface temperature in 2020 was 1.84 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than the baseline between 1951 and 1980.
Since the late 19th century, Earth’s temperature has risen by more than 2 degrees Fahrenheit. This leads to dramatic consequences for the planet, including loss of sea ice, sea level rise, more intense and longer heat waves and changes to plant and animal habitats.
In tracking temperature trends, NASA says humans can learn to better adapt to “the changing environment” by “planting different crops, managing our water resources and preparing for extreme weather events.”
A handful of factors contributed to the year’s temperature. According to NASA, the massive Australian bush fires last year released smoke and other particles high into the atmosphere, blocking sunlight and potentially cooling the atmosphere slightly.
Meanwhile, the COVID-19 pandemic reduced particulate air pollution across the earth, enabling more sunlight to reach the surface and potentially creating a small warming effect.
In a separate analysis, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration claimed 2020 was slightly less hot compared to 2016. The difference in findings is likely due to NOAA’s different methodological approach.