Was the 4th Hottest Year on Record. Here's How NASA Knows

NASA's 2018 temperatures compared to the 1951-1980 average

Enlarge NASA's 2018 temperatures compared to the 1951-1980 average. NASA

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said the average temperature for the contiguous U.S.in 2018 was 53.5 degrees Fahrenheit, making it a warmer-than-average year for the 22nd year in a row.

United States government scientists have announced that the Earth's average temperature was the fourth hottest on record in 2018. Scientists say that if the world is to avoid the worst consequences of climate change, global temperatures must not rise by more than two degrees Celsius compared with pre-industrial levels.

The warming is driven largely by the continued emission of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere by human activity, such as manufacturing, coal-fired power plant emissions, and deforestation.

"The key message is that the planet is warming, " said Gavin Schmidt, director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies.

NASA's global temperature analyses use surface temperature recordings from 6,300 weather stations around the world, incorporating ship- and buoy-based measurements of ocean surface temperatures as well as measurements of surface temperatures from Antarctic research outposts. That would be warmer than the last four years.

Both the sea surface temperature and the land surface temperature ranked the fourth highest on record, according to NOAA. The past five years are, collectively, the warmest years in the modern record.

If you spent much time outside last summer and thought that it wasn't that hot in past years, you were right.

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"According to our calculations, the Gulf of Mexico region had it's third warmest year on-record this year", said Deke Arndt, chief of the monitoring section of NOAA's National Centers for Environmental Information.

The strongest warming trends are occurring in the Arctic, where the loss of ice sheets continues to contribute to a rise in sea levels, NASA says.

NASA and NOAA added that increasing temperatures can also contribute to longer fire seasons and some extreme weather events.

Because weather station locations and measurement practices change over time, the interpretation of specific year-to-year global mean temperature differences has some uncertainties.

It appears highly likely, at least from today's perspective, that that line will be crossed, despite the fact that more than 190 countries have signed the Paris climate agreement, which sets targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The damage included Hurricane Michael's US$25 billion tally and US$24 billion each from Hurricane Florence and the western wildfires.

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