Extreme Temperature Diary- Friday January 15th, 2021/ Main Topic: Yearly Global Temperature Rankings Via Climate Central + The “Carbon Skyscraper”

The main purpose of this ongoing blog will be to track United States extreme or record temperatures related to climate change. Any reports I see of ETs will be listed below the main topic of the day. I’ll refer to extreme or record temperatures as ETs (not extraterrestrials).😉

Main Topic: Yearly Global Temperature Rankings Via Climate Central

Dear Diary. Yesterday I presented detailed NASA and NOAA information detailing that the planet essentially tied with 2016 as having the warmest year in recorded history during 2020. Today let’s show Climate Central’s updated graphics indicating our relentless global warming trend:


2020 in Review: Global Temperature Rankings

JAN 14, 2021

The global temperature data is in and signs of climate change could not be clearer—2020 was one of the two warmest years on record.

See full multimedia package here >>KEY CONCEPTS | POTENTIAL STORY ANGLES


  • The global temperature analyses are in, with NASA ranking 2020 as the warmest year on record (tied with 2016), and NOAA ranking it as the second warmest (see methodology below).  Combining their data, 2020 was 2.25°F (1.25°C) over the 1881-1910 baseline normal. 
  • The top 10 warmest years on record have all occurred since 2000—this outsized frequency of record high global temperatures is another symptom of climate change.
  • Despite La Niña conditions emerging in the second half of the year, 2020 was still able to secure a spot as one of the two warmest years on record because we continue to emit greenhouse gases that warm our planet.
  • With annual global temperature numbers in, Ed Hawkins added a 2020 stripe to his famous warming stripes.
Global Top 10 Hottest Years

Global Top 10 Hottest Years

Global Temperature Anomalies

Global Temperature Anomalies

Global Warming Stripes

Global Warming Stripes

Climate Central combined data from both NOAA and NASA to reveal the global temperature rankings compared to an early industrial baseline. Averaging the datasets shows that 2020 was 2.25°F (or 1.25°C) over the 1881-1910 baseline average.  

Long term global temperature trends indicate that the Earth is warming and at an unprecedented rate. The six warmest years have occurred since 2015 and the top 10 warmest years have all happened since 2000. In general, a stable climate is characterized by a balance of warm and cold years. However, the frequency at which we are setting new annual warm records, combined with the longer warming trend of global temperatures over the past decades, adds to the multiple lines of evidence of human-induced climate change.

Furthermore, 2020’s ranking is significant because it occurred during a developing La Niña. La Niña and its opposite, El Niño, correspond to variations in water temperatures in the Pacific Ocean. These usually result in a boost (El Niño) or a dip (La Niña) in extra heat added to the atmosphere. According to NOAA, when comparing 2020 with similar La Niña years of the recent past (1970, 1995, 2007, and 2010), 2020 was about about 0.5°F warmer than the next warmest year (2010). This means that more recent La Niña years (and El Niño years) are much warmer than they were in the past 70 years. Climate change is the main culprit for this, as greenhouse gases accumulated in the atmosphere and warmed up the planet over the decades.

The warming of our planet will continue as long as we emit greenhouse gases. While emissions briefly dipped in the spring during global shutdowns, they quickly resumed their upward course in much of the world. More record-breaking warm years are expected in the future, and in order to achieve a stable climate, we must reduce and keep our global carbon emissions low—permanently. 


With the release of new global temperature data, Ed Hawkins has added a new 2020 stripe to his famous warming stripes pattern. With a temperature anomaly of +2°F, the new stripe will be a dark red, following the warming trend of the past decade. 

New CO2 Charting Shows Speed of Recent Increase

Speed kills. The graph showing how much carbon dioxide levels have climbed since humans began burning fossil fuels may be the most iconic in climate science. But it doesn’t tell half the story. With the help of neural networks, Climate Central scientists updated the classic analysis to show how fast CO2 levels have changed over the past 800,000 years. The result is a jaw-dropping skyscraper of a chart that shows how dramatic human influence has been. Visit the Capital Weather Gang/The Washington Post to see it and read more: https://www.washingtonpost.com/weather/2021/01/12/carbon-skyscraper-rapid-climate-change/


How does the 2020 global rankings compare to the U.S. and other regions around the world?
2020 rankings for the U.S. can be found in our last Climate Matters post here. Information and rankings of other countries and regions are recorded in the NOAA 2020 Global Climate Report. The website also allows you to select specific months within 2020, and look at significant events that occurred around the world. You can access a 2020 map of temperature anomalies here. 

What are the signs and impacts of climate change in your local area?
2020 was a year of record-breaking heat across the globe (especially in the Arctic), an unprecedented hurricane season, and raging fire season. For a quick overview on climate change and its signs and impacts, scroll through our climate change presentation, Our Changing Climate. Through our media library, you can also check out potential local warming trends with our decades of warming30-year temperature averages, and records set by decade graphics. You can explore impacts of climate change by reading through our latest seasonal packages (fallwinterspring, and summer) or in our extreme weather toolkit.


The SciLine service500 Women Scientists or the press offices of local universities may be able to connect you with local scientists who have expertise on climate-related disasters in your area. The American Association of State Climatologists is a professional scientific organization composed of all 50 state climatologists


  • Gavin A. Schmidt, Ph.D.
    Climate Scientist, NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies
  • Russell S. Vose, Ph.D.
    Chief, Climatic Analysis and Synthesis Branch
    Climatic Science and Services Division, NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI)
  • María José Viñas
    Spanish Communications Lead, NASA Headquarters
    Email to schedule Spanish-speaking interview: maria-jose.vinasgarcia@nasa.gov


Calculations of average annual global temperature are performed independently at NASA and NOAA. Small differences in their calculations arise as NASA’s calculations are extrapolated to account for polar locations with poor station coverage, while NOAA relies more heavily on the polar station data. Climate Central compares temperatures to an earlier 1880-1910 baseline to assess warming during the industrial era. Calculations of 2016 and 2020 showed a virtual tie (2016: 1.263°C, 2020: 1.254°C). The “warming stripes” was conceived and calculated by Ed Hawkins, as described here.


Within Climate Central’s latest report they put a link to a Washington Post article describing a new concept, the “Carbon Skyscraper.” Much like Ed Hawkins’s stripes, this is simply a new visual to get us all thinking about how much we have changed our atmosphere via carbon pollution. Here is that report:


Capital Weather Gang Perspective

The carbon skyscraper: A new way of picturing rapid, human-caused climate change

Changes in carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere during the past 1 million years. (Climate Central) By Benjamin Strauss

Jan. 12, 2021 at 11:05 a.m. PST

Speed kills.

That’s why firing bullets from a gun is more dangerous than tossing them by hand. Why skydivers use parachutes. Why roads have speed limits. And why it’s critical to understand how quickly human activity will drive the climate to change, compared with past rates. Will we cause gradual shifts that civilization and life on Earth can adapt to — or are we igniting a wildfire that can’t be outrun?

And so it is that scientists trek to frigid Antarctica, to drill deep into its ice sheets and pull out thousands of feet of snow compressed into ice. They carefully date each layer, extract tiny bubbles of ancient atmosphere and measure the concentration of carbon dioxide, tuner of the planet’s thermostat.

2C: Beyond the Limit

From this hard work, we’ve learned the saw-toothed pattern of carbon dioxide levels over the past 1 million years. It has shot swiftly up during climbs to past warm intervals, a bit like the climate of today, and ramped slowly down into the long ice ages in between. We can also see the sharp recent increase in carbon dioxide that humans have caused, mainly by burning fossil fuels for energy. The graph used to show this jump is arguably the most iconic figure in climate science.

Atmospheric carbon dioxide levels during the past 1 million years. (Climate Central)

To me, it’s long been the most powerful illustration of climate change’s danger. At a glance, it shows how huge a departure we’ve made from normal. Yet there’s a built-in optical illusion that greatly understates human influence.

Simply put, there’s a lot of time squished between the left and right ends of the plot — almost 1 million years. The eye can hardly tell the difference between the tiny widths occupied by 100 vs. 1,000 years. While the most recent jump in carbon dioxide is clearly the tallest and steepest, it doesn’t look that much steeper than many increases that came before it.

But the recent increase is in fact way steeper than any past jump in this record or yet discovered.

Earth’s carbon dioxide levels hit record high, despite coronavirus-related emissions drop

Steepness is what shows the speed of carbon dioxide increase — and speed foretells danger. The faster the climate changes, the less the ability of society, along with the ecosystems we depend on, to adapt to the new abnormal.

You can begin to see the difference by zooming in to look at only a small recent fraction of the figure’s timeline. New data from Antarctica has just given us our highest-resolution look at carbon dioxide during the past 67,000 years:

High-resolution look of carbon dioxide during the past 67,000 years. (Climate Central)

Within that period, you can see the slow decline of carbon dioxide until Earth reached the coldest point of the last ice age, about 20,000 years ago. Then, for 7,000 to 8,000 years (the period between the arrows), carbon dioxide naturally shot up, warming the planet to near its current climate — hospitable for agriculture and civilization.

The sheer spike at the far right, linked to human activity since the Industrial Revolution, is obviously much steeper. The problem is that we needed to zoom way in to see this contrast — but have to zoom way out, like the earlier figure, for the broader context.

Fortunately, there is a simple way to show the difference in speed of change together with a very long record. That is to focus on the change in carbon dioxide per period of time, instead of on the level. The result reveals the jaw-dropping “carbon skyscraper”at the top of this piece.

To my knowledge, this is the first time the historic carbon dioxide record has been depicted in this way. My hope in developing this visualization is to clearly show just how dramatic human influence has been — and how grave our situation may be.

Importantly, there is an optimistic side to this coin as well. The speed and scale of human industry can also be applied toward solutions, and today, we have the potential to move quickly to reduce emissions. Through renewable energy and other clean technologies, and with smart policy and the will to act, the world’s nations can shut the carbon dioxide floodgates much more swiftly than we pried them open — in a few decades, not centuries.

Perhaps the skyscraper plot hasn’t been tried before because we don’t have direct carbon dioxide readings for the exact years needed. There are gaps in the record: For the whole period shown, scientists have direct measurements once per 400 years or so on average — and about once per 800 years in the older parts of the timeline. Some gaps exceed 2,000 years. The reason the traditional graph looks complete is that a line is drawn between observations, essentially connecting the dots.

But from a scientific perspective, that’s not the best way to fill in the gaps.

To improve on that approach, my colleague Scott Kulp used neural networks, a form of artificial intelligence, to construct a continuous curve from the patchy data, shown just below, and allow estimates for any year. The carbon skyscraper is constructed by taking readings from the curve every 1,000 years going back from the present.

The “carbon skyscraper” constructed by taking readings from the atmospheric carbon dioxide curve every 1,000 years going back from the present. This approach uses an artificial-intelligence technique known as neural networks. (Climate Central)

The reconstructed curve has a good fit to the data. But the 1,000-year skyscraper still understates our predicament.

Why? Time chunks 1,000 years long can’t capture the speed of the modern carbon dioxide jump, almost all of which has taken place in the past century. If we could make a 100-year skyscraper plot, its appearance would be even more stark. It would look a lot like the 1,000-year skyscraper, but with the average change per period — except the last spike — divided by 10, creating an even bigger contrast. Unfortunately, data gaps across most of the record are still too long to put confidence in a reconstruction with a 100-year resolution. Or maybe that is fortunate: The 1,000-year version looks daunting enough.

One thing is clear at any resolution: Humankind is on a crash course with rapid, destabilizing climate changes, unless we can dramatically slow down and stop our pollution of the atmosphere. After that, maybe we can even find a way to put it in reverse.

Benjamin Strauss is the chief executive and chief scientist at Climate Central, a nonpartisan climate science and communications group. Scott Kulp, a senior computational scientist at Climate Central, developed and implemented the detailed method for estimating past CO2 levels.

Here are “ET’s from Friday and an “ET” dot map from Thursday:

Here is more climate and weather news from Friday:

(As usual, this will be a fluid post in which more information gets added during the day as it crosses my radar, crediting all who have put it on-line. Items will be archived on this site for posterity. In most instances click on the pictures of each tweet to see each article.)

Now here are some of today’s articles and notes on the horrid COVID-19 pandemic:

(If you like these posts and my work please contribute via the PayPal widget, which has recently been added to this site. Thanks in advance for any support.) 

Guy Walton- “The Climate Guy”

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