2019 was the second-hottest year on record, ending the hottest decade on Earth

January 16, 2020, 12:02 p.m.
Smoke and smog blanket the area around a factory in Slovakia.
Photo: Branislav Cerven/Shutterstock

Earth just had its second-hottest year in recorded history, ending the warmest decade ever measured, NASA and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) researchers reported.

And don't look for things to be cooling off anytime soon.

"If you think you've heard this story before — you haven't seen anything yet," Gavin Schmidt, director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, said in announcing the report.

In 2019, temperatures around the world were second only to those of 2016. Surface temperatures were 1.8 degrees F (0.98 degrees C) warmer than the 1951 to 1980 mean, according to NASA.

Supporters attend the 2017 People's Climate March in Washington, D.C., backing action on climate change. Supporters attend the 2017 People's Climate March in Washington, D.C., backing action on climate change. (Photo: Nicole Glass Photography/Shutterstock.com)

"The decade that just ended is clearly the warmest decade on record," said Schmidt. "Every decade since the 1960s clearly has been warmer than the one before."

The past decade had eight of the top 10 hottest years on record. The decade saw a range of notable weather events including record heat waves, raging wildfires, extreme temperatures and melting ice. The only other years in the top 10 were 2005 and 1998, according to NOAA's Global Report.

Earth's warming trend can be seen in this NASA visualization, which shows how global temperatures are changing over time.

"It's sobering to think that we might be breaking global temperature records in quick succession," Georgia Tech climate scientist Kim Cobb told the Associated Press. "2020 is off to a horrifying climate start, and I fear what the rest of the year will bring to our doorsteps."