Researchers on Wednesday confirmed that 2019 was the second-hottest year ever, capping off the hottest decade in recorded history as the world continues to grapple with climate change.
Six of the warmest years on record occurred during the past decade, according to research from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the World Meteorological Organization.
Temperatures in 2019 were slightly cooler than 2016, which was the hottest year on record at 1.2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, due in part to an El Nino that sent a substantial amount of heat from the Pacific Ocean into the atmosphere.
Researchers analyzed temperature data from observing stations across the world. They found that global average surface temperatures in 2019 were almost 1 degree Celsius higher than the average from 1951 to 1980.
"Unfortunately, we expect to see much extreme weather throughout 2020 and the coming decades, fueled by record levels of heat-trapping greenhouse gases in the atmosphere," WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas said in a statement.
"Australia had its hottest, driest year on record in 2019, setting the scene for the massive bushfires which were so devastating to people and property, wildlife, ecosystems and the environment," Taalas said.
Nations in the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change vowed to cap emissions to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels but are not on track to meet that goal.
In fact, the United Nations' scientific panel on climate change has warned that temperature over land is warming at twice the speed of the global average and has already risen above the 1.5 degrees Celsius mark.
Correction: This story has been updated to reflect the correct sources of the research.