The planet is hot, and staying hot. This may not be news to anyone following climate trends: 2015, 2016, and 2017 were all some of the warmest years in the modern record, and 2018 was no exception.
In a newly released analysis, scientists at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies found that 2018 was the fourth-hottest year on record. Global temperatures were around 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit (.83 degrees Celsius) warmer than the mean temperatures between 1951 and 1980. This was slightly lower than the 2017 average (1.62 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than the midcentury mean), but still, according to NASA, part of a disturbing trend in global warming. For those keeping track, we’re supposed to limit global warming to no more than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. But since then, we’ve already sailed past one degree of that warming target, and the findings from 2018 do not show that slowing down.
“2018 is yet again an extremely warm year on top of a long-term global warming trend,” said Goddard Institute for Space Studies director Gavin Schmidt in a release.
The steady rise in global temperatures will continue to cause extreme weather events like the ones that punctuated 2018. Last year, California experienced its worst-ever wildfires, and two hurricanes battered Florida and the Carolinas, respectively. And that’s just in the U.S.: In the Arctic and Antarctic, ice sheets continue to melt and raise sea levels. The destabilization of frigid temperatures at the poles, too, will continue to cause the types of freezes that seized much of the U.S. this past January.
If emission patterns do not meaningfully change in the next few decades, we have no chance of keeping global warming below the 2-degree-Celsius threshold. This report from NASA should serve as yet another reminder that industries must act swiftly and creatively to decarbonize their operations–and that national and local leaders must set strict standards for them to meet.