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a kangaroo hops in front of a setting sun
a kangaroo hops in front of a setting sun

2018 Was the Fourth-Hottest Year on Record

The past five years have been the warmest-ever, NASA and NOAA announce.

Shawna Williams
Shawna Williams

Shawna joined The Scientist in 2017 and is now a senior editor and news director. She holds a bachelor's degree in biochemistry from Colorado College and a graduate certificate and science communication from the University of California, Santa Cruz.

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Last year was the fourth-hottest globally since record keeping began in 1880, NASA and NOAA announced today (February 6) in a joint news conference. The announcement confirms one made last month by Berkeley Earth, an independent climate research group, The New York Times reports.

“The five warmest years have, in fact, been the last five years,” Gavin Schmidt, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, tells the Times. “We’re no longer talking about a situation where global warming is something in the future. It’s here. It’s now.”

In addition to continuing a trend toward warmer average global temperatures, 2018 saw multiple changes or natural disasters thought to be linked to climate change, including melting of ice north of Greenland that normally stays frozen year-round; a heat wave in Australia that killed tens of thousands of wild animals; and an unusually devastating fire season...

CNN notes that the past three years have each set a record for the number of natural disasters hitting the US that caused more than $1 billion in damage. On average, there are 6.2 such events per year; in 2018, there were 14.

“Unfortunately, we’re in a situation where we see [the climate change models’ predictions have] come true,” Schmidt tells the Times. “And while that’s intellectually pleasing, it totally sucks.”

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