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Behind the Forecast: 2020 on pace to be one of 3 warmest years on record

Listen to Science Behind the Forecast with Meteorologist Tawana Andrew every Friday on 89.3 WFPL at 7:45 a.m.
Published: Dec. 4, 2020 at 10:37 AM EST
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The long range weather pattern looks cooler and possibly wetter by late next week.
The long range weather pattern looks cooler and possibly wetter by late next week.(WAVE 3 News)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - While 2020 has been a wild year overall, it’s also going down as one of the top three warmest years on record since record-keeping began.

A recent report from the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) also stated that 2011 through 2020 would be the warmest decade on record, with the warmest six years occurring since 2015.

WMO’s State of the Global Climate in 2020 report compiles data collected from international organizations and experts. It dives into the record-breaking Atlantic hurricane season, the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the extreme heat we saw this year, among other topics.

Ocean heat is at record levels, according to the WMO, and 80% of our planet’s oceans had a marine heatwave at some point this year. Our oceans already absorb around a quarter of all the carbon dioxide released into the air, whether it is human-made or natural. The additional carbon dioxide makes the oceans more acidic; this endangers the lives of animals and plants living within them.

When Arctic sea-ice reached its annual minimum in September, we saw the second-lowest levels in the 42-year-old satellite record. Arctic sea ice levels in July and October were the lowest on record, according to the WMO.

Louisville drivers dealt with heavy rain across the city Friday morning.
Louisville drivers dealt with heavy rain across the city Friday morning.(WAVE 3 News)

Death Valley, California, reached the highest known temperature in the world on August 16; that day, the high temperature was 129.92 °F(54.4 °C). Wildfires ravaged parts of the United States; some fires were the largest ever recorded. July through September were some of the hottest and driest months on record for the southwestern U.S. Typically, there is a strong El Niño during record warm years but, this year, there was a La Niña.

Globally, the number of tropical cyclones was above average for both the Northern and Southern Hemisphere’s seasons. As of November 17, 96 tropical cyclones had formed. The 2020 Atlantic Hurricane season contributed to much of that. A record thirty storms formed; thirteen became hurricanes, six of which became major hurricanes. During an average season, there are twelve named storms, six hurricanes, and three major hurricanes, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. A record twelve named storms slammed into the U.S. coast. Our strongest hurricane was Iota, which had maximum winds of 160 MPH.

While initially, it looked like COVID-19 would have an unexpected good impact on the environment, the opposite has proven to be true. Despite COVID-19 lockdowns worldwide, greenhouse gases rose.

The WMO will publish the final version of the State of the Global Climate in 2020 in March 2021.

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