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2021 was the 6th hottest year on record, according to NASA and NOAA. Canada definitely felt the heat

The numbers are there: the Earth still has a fever.

NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released their annual assessment of global temperatures and found 2021 to be the sixth warmest year on record.

NOAA recorded global land and sea surface temperatures that were 0.84 C above the 20th century average, while NASA recorded 0.85 C.

“It is certainly warmer now than at any time in the past 2,000 years and probably much longer,” said Russell S. Vose, head of climate analysis at the National Environmental Information Centers (NCEI). from NOAA, during a teleconference.

While ranking is not the most important indicator of climate change – Vose pointed out others, such as melting ice caps, changes in animal behavior and migration patterns – it is a good one. indicator of the Earth’s warming trajectory.

“This is just one indicator of a warming world,” Vose said. “The last seven or eight years have been the hottest on record. It’s pretty clear that it’s getting hotter and hotter.”

This graph shows land and sea surface temperature anomalies in 2021. (NOAA)

NCEI climatologist Ahira Sanchez-Lugo compared the data to a person’s annual exam.

“We are constantly taking Earth’s vital signs. And not only are we archiving them, but analyzing them to help us understand how healthy the Earth is,” she said.

“When you go to your annual checkup, the doctor collects data from you – they weigh you, they take your blood pressure, they take a blood sample. And not only do they archive that information, but the doctor takes it. examine annually – year round to see if there are any changes and how healthy you are.

“So everything [this] tells us that Earth’s climate is changing. “

The two US science agencies said some of the notable climatic events of 2021 were: the heat wave that crushed the Pacific Northwest; a new heat wave that hit Europe and the first rains on the Greenland ice sheet.

While 2021 ranked in the Top 10 hottest on record, the fact that it did not rank higher did not surprise climatologists. This is because it was a year with La Niña, a cooling of the Pacific Ocean that has a cooling effect in parts of the planet.

“Once we started with La Niña, we already knew it wouldn’t be a banner heat year,” said Sanchez-Lugo. “But we knew it would be a Top 10 year because of the heat we’ve had so far.”

2021 was the 6th hottest year on record, according to NASA and NOAA.  Canada definitely felt the heat
A woman distributes bottled water to residents of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside on June 28, 2021. Parts of British Columbia experienced record high temperatures in 2021. (Ben Nelms / CBC)

On Monday, the European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S) released its annual results, placing 2021 the fifth hottest, 1.1-1.2 ° C above 1850- levels. 1900. The agency also noted that the past seven years have been the hottest on the planet “by far”, with records dating back to 1850.

There are still slight differences in the conclusions of climate agencies, due to the different methods used to collect and analyze the data.

“It doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with either set of data; it just means we’re doing things differently,” Sanchez-Lugo said. “But when you look at the entire time series… both sets of data say the same thing: that the temperatures for each decade continue to rise.”

Looking ahead, Vose said, there’s a 99% chance that 2022 will rank in the top 10 hottest, 50/50 chance or less that it will rank in the Top 5, and a 10% chance that it will fall. first class.

Global warming is caused by an increase in heat-trapping gases, like CO2, pumped into the atmosphere, Vose said. Last year set an atmospheric CO2 record of 419 parts per million, recorded by the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in Mauna Loa.

This upward trend is accompanied by serious impacts: increased droughts; more frequent and persistent heat waves; flood; Forest fires; and impacts on human health.

“We are experiencing climate change here and now,” Sanchez-Lugo said.

Canada’s records

Perhaps not as surprisingly, Canada had its own record year in the Top 10 in 2021.

In late June and early July, the eyes of the world were on British Columbia as record high temperatures were shattered in a deadly heat wave. The town of Lytton – which broke Canada’s record for the hottest temperature in Canada at 49.6 ° C – was destroyed after wildfires ravaged the community, essentially wiping it out.

This heat wave also contributed to 570 deaths in British Columbia alone.

But it wasn’t just the west coast that felt the heat; almost every province experienced a heat wave or above normal summer temperatures.

“If you planted a thermometer in Canada last year, it would be 2.4 degrees warmer than normal,” said David Phillips, senior climatologist at Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC). “The only other years that were warmer were 2010 – which was the hottest year in 74 years – and 1998.”

2021 was the 6th hottest year on record, according to NASA and NOAA.  Canada definitely felt the heat
Just days after Lytton, British Columbia set the record for the hottest temperature in Canada this summer, it was largely destroyed by a wildfire. The new record was about five degrees warmer than the city’s previous record. (Darryl Dyck / The Canadian Press)

But if you think it was those bad summer temperatures that made our annual temperature soar, you’d be wrong.

“We often hear on a global scale [that] we’ve warmed up by a degree in the last 200 years, “said Phillips.” Well, in 74 years, [Canada has] warmed by 1.9 degrees during this period. And the warmest season is winter … 3.7 degrees, nationwide. “

Yet the summer heat waves surprised Phillips, who has been a climatologist for more than 50 years.

“Even for me, it was a shock to see the impacts, the effects of this extraordinary warming,” he said. “I think what was so interesting is that Canadians witnessed it… We had read about it and documentaries, but for us it really touched us. It was not something that happened in Bangladesh or Botswana. in Burnaby and Burlington. “

As for North America as a whole, NOAA said it was the seventh hottest temperature on record on the continent, with a temperature 1.4 ° C above average. Nine of the continent’s 10 hottest years have all occurred since 2001, with 1998 completing the list.

But climatologists have all said the message is clear: Earth’s temperature trend is increasing. Globally, the hottest years on record all occurred between 2013 and 2021.

When asked when we might expect to reach 1.5 ° C – the global warming threshold set by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) – Vose noted that the most recent IPCC suggests that there is a 50/50 chance that will occur within a year of this decade. But the global average “will almost certainly exceed” 1.5 ° C in the 2030s or 2040s, he said.

“So we’re not there yet, but we’re approaching that point. And that path is unlikely to change as long as we continue to emit greenhouse gases.”