Last year’s average global temperature was only surpassed by a freakishly warm year in 2016, when an enormous El Nino event caused the thermometer to spike.
There was also a record number of ‘extreme warm days’ in 2019, when high temperatures exceeded the 98th percentile for the past 60 years.
The warming trend caused alpine glaciers to lose mass, scientists said, continuing a trend dating back over 30 years.
Loss of ice in the polar regions has raised global sea levels 3.4 inches above what was recorded in the 1990s.
And ocean temperatures are also at near record highs, second only to 2016.
Published in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, the study found that concentrations of greenhouse gases like methane and carbon dioxide were at record levels in 2019.
That’s compared to both modern instrumental recordings and ice core samples dating back 800,000 years.
The study, based on data from researchers in over 60 countries, confirms similar findings from NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
And the heatwave shows no signs of ending: From Arizona to Siberia, regions around the globe have been charting record high temperatures in 2020.
In February, the thermometer in Antarctica topped 68F (20.7C) for the first time.
Gavin Schmidt, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, says the rise in temperatures is ‘persistent,’ and not the result of fluke weather phenomena.
‘We crossed over into more than 2 degrees Fahrenheit warming territory in 2015 and we are unlikely to go back,’ Schmidt said.
‘We know that the long-term trends are being driven by the increasing levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.’
Chris Rapley, professor of climate science at University College London, has called global warming one of humanity’s greatest follies.
‘This is not so much a record as a broken record,’ Rapley said. ‘The message repeats with grim regularity, yet the pace and scale of action to address climate change remain muted and far from the need.’
More than 190 nations signed the Paris climate accords in 2015, promising to combat global warming and stem the rise in global average temperatures.
Two years later, President Donald Trump announced the US would be withdrawing from the agreement.