2020 was the Hottest Year on Record.

The Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S) , the EU’s Earth Observation Programme, revealed on January 8 that globally 2020 was tied with the previous warmest year 2016, making it the sixth in a series of exceptionally warm years starting in 2015, and 2011-2020 the warmest decade recorded. Meanwhile, Europe saw its warmest year on record, 0.4°C warmer than 2019 which was previously the warmest year. Together with the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS), C3S also reports that CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere have continued to rise at a rate of approximately 2.3 ppm/year in 2020 reaching a maximum of 413 ppm during May 2020. Both C3S and CAMS are implemented by the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts on behalf of the European Commission with funding by the European Union.

Why is this relevant?

  • It confirms a worrying trend, with the six hottest years on record corresponding to the last six years.
  • It happened during a La Nina year, when temperatures are milder than usual.
  • It highlights the need for countries to cut down their emissions.
  • It can be linked to some of the extreme events that we experienced in 2020.



Dr. Karsten Haustein, Scientist at the Climate Service Center Germany (GERICS):
“The fact that 2020 tied with 2016 as the warmest year on record is another stark reminder that human-induced climate change continues unabated. This is particularly remarkable, as 2020 was not under the influence of an El Niño, a mode of natural climate variability in the tropical Pacific which ‘supercharged’ 2016 with extra heat. 2020 did not have such a ‘boost’, yet it almost exceeded the previous record holder. In fact, only a notably colder December (compared to November) prevented 2020 from becoming the new stand-alone warmest year.

“In context of the pandemic, scientists have found that the economic stimulus provided by governments as liquidity support to keep businesses afloat (and support individuals) dwarfs the annual energy investments required to stay on a low-carbon pathway consistent with the Paris climate agreement. Once we are faced with an emergency situation, seemingly impossible (financial) action is suddenly taken at unprecedented scale. Given we are in a state of climate emergency too – one which cannot be made undone with a vaccine – smart investment choices are what is needed given what’s at stake.”

Dr. Marshall Shepherd, Georgia Athletic Association Distinguished Professor of Atmospheric Sciences and Geography:
“I think the focus on whether 2020 is the hottest year on record misses the bigger point. We are in an era of sustained record breaking years. This is no longer breaking news, but a human crisis.”


Go to the press release.