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Environment and Science

Florida Saw Its Second Warmest Year In 2020, Nearly Warmest For The World

2020 was one of the two warmest on record across the globe, and one of the warmest in Florida.

According to data from NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 2020 was tied or close to tying with 2016 for the world’s warmest year.

And the 10 warmest years have all occurred in just the past couple of decades.

It will continue to get warmer, said Sean Sublette, a meteorologist with Climate Central, a nonprofit science and news organization.

"We don't think… every subsequent year is going to be warmer than the previous, but they're almost certainly all going to be in the top 10, sometimes top five, for the foreseeable future. The atmosphere is… still coming into equilibrium with the CO2 that we continue to pump into the atmosphere."

Last year was also the fifth warmest year for the United States.

And in Florida, 2020 tied with 2019 for second warmest year on record with a statewide average temperature of 73.2 degrees. The year holding that record is 2015 with an average temperature of 73.4 degrees.

Don’t let the recent cool weather in Florida confuse you, though. Sublette said there's a difference between weather and climate.

"Climate is a much longer-term average. We're looking at decades, multiple decades at a time, not just one year, or one month, or one day or one week,” he said. “We were always going to have cooler spells, all right. But the hotter spells are going to far outnumber the cooler spells. Cooler spells are not going to last as long or be as intense as they have in the past."

In 2016, one of the warmest years next to 2020, waters in the Pacific Ocean near the equator warmed more than usual through an event called El Niño. But in 2020 those same waters, in an ocean that dominates the globe in terms of surface area, actually cooled through La Niña.

“I think that the take home message is that even with the cooling effect of the Pacific Ocean, it was still nearly the warmest year on record,” said Sublette.

As long as we continue burning fossil fuels and accumulating greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, Sublette said the temperature is going to continue ticking up. Greenhouse gases are the highest level they've been in human civilization, he said.

People who want to do their part to slow global warming should monitor their energy use more closely-- things like electricity, food and travel, according to Sublette.

“There's not a lot one person can do to change the entire energy infrastructure of the country and the planet, too,” said Sublette. “If you want to start to make a difference… the first thing you do is conserve.”

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Climate Central /