Copernicus Reveals 2019 Was The 2nd Warmest Year On Record With Increased Concentration Levels of Atmospheric CO2

2019 was the second warmest year globally ever recorded, and the fifth in a series of exceptionally warm years, The Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S) announces today. C3S also reports that CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere have continued to rise along with the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS). They provide the first complete, global picture of 2019 temperatures and CO2 levels. The results are in line with earlier projections from WMO and the Global Carbon Project (GCP) for 2019 that 2019 was likely to be the 2nd or 3rd warmest year on record with an increase in atmospheric CO2 concentrations.

C3S and CAMS, both the services provide quality-assured data on 2019 temperatures and CO2 concentrations, among many other climate variables. The European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts implements these on behalf of the European Union. It is helpful for policymakers, organizations, and individuals to make informed choices about mitigation on climate change and the air quality that we breathe.

C3S provided the temperature dataset, which shows that the temperature of global average surface air was 0.04 °C lower than in 2016, the warmest year on record.

The data also show that:

  • The last five years were recorded as the five warmest years with 2019 coming in as the second warmest and 2010-2019 being the warmest decade on record.
  • 2019 was almost 0.6 °C more heated than the 1981-2010 average.
  • The average temperature of the last five years was between 1.1 and 1.2 °C higher than the pre-industrial level defined by the IPCC.
  • Europe witnessed its warmest calendar year on record, ahead of 2014, 2015, and 2018 marginally.

Besides, as per the satellite measurements of global atmospheric CO2 concentrations:

  • The rise of CO2 continued in 2019, increasing by 2.3 ± 0.8 ppm.

Alaska and large parts of the Arctic experienced the most pronounced warming compared to the 1981-2010 average. Most land areas were warmer than average, chiefly eastern and southern Europe, southern Africa, and Australia. In contrast, the annual temperatures were below average in central and south-eastern Canada.

All seasons were warmer than usual in Europe, with the fourth warmest summer and autumn on record. In terms of average temperature, none of the seasons was record-breaking. Still, Europe nevertheless saw its warmest calendar year on record, marginally ahead of 2014, 2015, and 2018. Copernicus will present a more detailed analysis of the climate in Europe in its European State of the Climate 2019, which is set to be released in April.

“2019 has been another exceptionally warm year, in fact the second warmest globally in our dataset, with many of the individual months breaking records”, says Carlo Buontempo, Head of the Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S). “The C3S temperature dataset for 2019 is the first complete set to be published, including annual anomalies and globally averaged fields. It is possible because we are an operational programme, processing millions of land, marine, airborne and satellite observations daily. A state-of-the-art computer model is used to bring all these observations together, in a similar way to how weather forecasting is carried out.”

Jean-Noël Thépaut, Director of ECMWF Copernicus, comments: “The past five years have been the five warmest on record; the last decade has been the warmest on record: These are unquestionably alarming signs. Seeing one or more months much warmer than the recent reference period can be disconcerting but does not as such represent a climate trend, as monthly temperature deviations vary, and some regions may show below-average conditions for a while.

We produce data with full global coverage of temperature every day and publish monthly and annual summaries based on this dataset that currently goes back to 1979. For determining possible long-term trends related to climate change, observations dating long into the past are invaluable. Therefore, we also compare our data with climate data dating back to the pre-industrial era to ascertain these long-term climate trends.”

The Advantages of Reanalysis

C3S and CAMS use reanalysis to produce its quality-assured data. It is a scientific method based on a multitude of observations which aims to estimate weather conditions and atmospheric composition for every day over the past few decades with the maximum accuracy.

A variety of platforms or instruments, from weather stations to weather balloons and satellites are used for taking these observations. As each type of observation measures any one particular aspect of the weather or atmospheric composition, like temperature, wind, or humidity, among others, they provide an incomplete view of the atmosphere. Moreover, the observations are unevenly distributed around the world, and their number tends to decrease as we go back in time.

Then the process of reanalysis combines all distinct observations available on every hour of a given day and creates a complete 3D picture of conditions prevailing all around the world. Putting the images of global weather conditions and atmospheric composition altogether, they provide a comprehensive historical record of the Earth’s climate to monitor how fast it is changing.

Continuous Increase in CO2 Concentrations

In recent years including in 2019, carbon dioxide concentrations have continued to rise as indicated by the analysis of satellite data. Satellite-derived CO2 concentrations are representative of the column-averaged CO2 mixing ratio, also denoted as XCO2. The dataset is a combination of two datasets that were prepared for C3S and CAMS.

The estimated annual mean XCO2 growth rate for 2019 is 2.3 ± 0.8 ppm/year, which is larger than the 2.1 ± 0.5 ppm/year, the growth rate in 2018, but less than the 2.9 ± 0.3 ppm/year that occurred in 2015. 2015 was a year in which an intense El Niño climate event resulted in a larger atmospheric growth rate. It was due to a weaker than normal uptake of atmospheric CO2 by the terrestrial vegetation, and large CO2 emissions from wildfires as happened in Indonesia.

Monitoring Climate Regularly

Every year, C3S provides a detailed report of our continent’s climate in its European State of the Climate report. In the report, there will be an analysis of more climate variables and specific climate events of the past year. The European State of the Climate 2019 report will be announced in spring 2020.

C3S also publishes climate bulletins at the beginning of each month. It reports routinely on anomalies in surface air temperature, sea ice cover, and hydrological variables in addition to the annual temperature values. The latest climate bulletin for December is now available. The findings for surface air temperature are as follows:

Surface air temperature, December 2019:

  • Global temperatures were at par with those in December 2015, and these two months are jointly the warmest Decembers in the data record.
  • December 2019 was more than 0.7°C more heated than the December average for 1981-2010.
  • The average temperature over Europe was 3.2°C warmer than that of the standard reference period (1981-2010), and it became the warmest December on record for Europe by a narrow margin.
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