Report: Climate change indicators saw record highs last year

By Jake Thomas
A new report said parts of the world saw more typhoons in 2020 because of climate change, including Typhoon Vongfong/Ambo in San Policarpo, Philippines last May. File Photo by Jerome Pedrosa/EPA
A new report said parts of the world saw more typhoons in 2020 because of climate change, including Typhoon Vongfong/Ambo in San Policarpo, Philippines last May. File Photo by Jerome Pedrosa/EPA

Aug. 26 (UPI) -- Even with a pandemic-induced global economic downturn, 2020 was among the warmest on record and saw record emissions of greenhouse gas emissions, a new report from a government science agency has found.

The State of the Climate report, released Wednesday by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Centers for Environmental Information, spells more bad news for the Earth's climate, according to researchers.


The findings come weeks after the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change issued a landmark report calling human influence on the climate "unequivocal," while saying it was too late to halt many of the effects of climate change.

The most recent report is the 31st annual report from the government science agency and is based on thousands of measurements from more than 530 scientists in over 60 countries. It includes indicators including greenhouse gas emissions, ocean salinity and cloud cover, among others.


Those indicators showed the planet is facing rising temperatures, researchers said, in addition to greenhouse gas emissions reaching new records.

Despite a 6% to 7% reduction in emissions from last year's economic slowdown, the global annual average atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration rose to 412.5 parts per million.

Methane, another potent greenhouse gas, saw the biggest year-over-year increase at 14.8 parts per billion since systematic measurements began.

Scientists told the Washington Post that the source of increased methane emissions is uncertain but could be coming from livestock, landfills or from salt marshes and peatlands that are emitting more of the gas as the planet warms.

"It's really an ongoing investigation," Xin Lan, an atmospheric chemist at NOAA's global monitoring laboratory in Boulder, Colo., told the paper.

The average global sea level rose for the ninth consecutive year to a record high of about 3.5 inches. And no continent was spared extreme weather last year, according to the report.

The Arctic and Antarctica continued to warm. Verkhoyansk, a town in Russia's far north, recorded a temperature of 100 degrees in June, the highest temperature ever recorded in the Arctic Circle.

Parts of Africa saw flooding and landslides triggered by heavy rains. Storms and hurricanes also became larger, with Super Typhoon Goni becoming the largest on record and causing more than one million people to be evacuated from the Philippines.


The report found that the Earth's temperatures rose even with the cooling effect from La Niña during the second half of the year.

But the cycling between warm El Niño and cold La Niña conditions in the eastern Pacific Ocean could change along with the climate, according to a study published Thursday in the journal Nature Climate Change.

Using one of South Korea's fastest supercomputers, researchers analyzed how increased greenhouse gas emissions will impact the El Niño and La Niña conditions.

The study found that year-to-year fluctuations in eastern equatorial Pacific will weaken with human-induced climate change, though extreme rainfall from El Niño and La Niña cycles will continue.

"Our research documents that unabated warming is likely to silence the world's most powerful natural climate swing which has been operating for thousands of years," study co-author Axel Timmermann said in a statement.

"We don't yet know the ecological consequences of this potential no-analog situation, but we are eager to find out," said Timmerman, director of the IBS Center for Climate Physics at Pusan National University in South Korea.

Latest Headlines