The global top five of hottest years nowadays consists entirely of the past five years, with 2019 in second place. Europe even broke the absolute record back then: never before was the European average temperature as high as in 2019. This is evident from measurements from the Copernicus program, a collaboration between space agency ESA and European weather institutes.

The previous heat records were broken in Europe in 2014, 2015 and 2018. In July, the absolute heat record was broken in July in the Netherlands with 40.7 degrees and February was exceptionally warm. Nevertheless, 2014 remains the year with the highest average Dutch temperature.

2019 will therefore be in second place worldwide. Only in 2016 was the average earth temperature even higher, partly as a result of a powerful El Niño in that year (a periodic natural phenomenon that generally heats up cool seawater). The global top five of the hottest years is in ascending order as follows: 2018, 2015, 2017, 2019 and 2016. On average, the hottest ever recorded was the last decade.

Other research shows that the oceans were also exceptionally warm last year. The average water temperature has never been as high as in 2019, reported Chinese and American researchers.

Map with temperature deviations from 2019 compared to the current climate average between 1981 and 2010. It was warmest in Alaska, Greenland, northern Siberia, southern Africa, Australia, West Antarctica and Europe. (Source: Copernicus program).

Earth is now heated to 1.1 to 1.2 degrees

The map above shows the temperatures in relation to the current climate average. That average shifts to the future every ten years.

The period between 1981 and 2010 is currently used as a climate average, also visible as the horizontal dotted line in the graph below. Next year, this will shift back by ten years, and temperatures will be compared to the average from 1991 to 2020.

Global warming is expressed in relation to a fixed baseline, the so-called 'pre-industrial climate', when the CO2 concentration had not yet been substantially increased by humans. The climate average of the end of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth century is usually used for this. It is represented as the black zero line in the graph below:

According to the Copernicus program, the average temperature on earth in the last five years was between 1.1 and 1.2 degrees above this pre-industrial climate. Although this warming has a long run-up of almost a century and a half, the increase has increased sharply, especially in the last forty years. This is in line with an also accelerating CO2 concentration in the atmosphere. The temperature on earth is now going up by 0.2 degrees every ten years.

See also: Forest fires and melting ice sheets: these were the climate records of 2019