The first three months of 2020 are already nearing temperature records

Records keep on falling
Records keep on falling
Image: AP Photo/Alexander F. Yuan
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Get ready for a hot one. The first three months of 2020 are now the second-hottest on record going back to 1880, according to NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information.

That lines up with the last decade of warming. This March marks the 423rd consecutive month that temperatures have exceeded the 20th-century global average. Last year was the second hottest on record, according to NOAA, following 2016. All five of the warmest years have been recorded since 2015.


The early heat makes it virtually certain that 2020 will place in the ranks of the hottest years. Global land and ocean surface temperatures were 2.09°F (1.16°C) above average. Records were set across the globe, particularly in eastern Europe and Asia, where temperatures were 5.4°F (3.0°C) above average.

Land and ocean temperature percentiles from January to March 2020

How much hotter is it going to get? Global climate models have proved remarkably accurate, and the world is now running closer to those projected by Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change in 2015. Cities will feel the heat sooner: Temperatures in cities such as Moscow, London, Seattle are expected to shift from temperate to sub-tropical, rising 3.5° C to 6° C above normal, according to 2019 research in PLOS One.

Globally, research suggests we’ll see close to 2°C warming by the end of century, even in the most optimistic scenario. And that’s not the path we’re on.

In 2015, scientists introduced “shared socioeconomic pathways” reflecting different ways the world might evolve along key indices such as population, urbanization, and economic growth. We’re now far closer to what modelers refer to as the “regional rivalry — a rocky road” scenario, reflecting more nationalism and reduced cooperation. That scenario has global temperature rising more than 4 °C above pre-industrial averages.