September was ‘hottest on record’ in 2020, scientists say as wildfires rage and Arctic ice melts

Jimmy Nsubuga
·3 min read

Watch: This September was the hottest on record, scientists find

We’ve just had the hottest September on record, caused by unusually high temperatures across the world, according to an EU climate organisation.

Globally, September was 0.05 degrees warmer than the same month in 2019 and 0.08C warmer than in 2016, previously the warmest and second warmest Septembers on record, the Copernicus Climate Change Service reported.

The organisation said on Wednesday that 2020’s hot weather has played a major role in disasters including fires in California, melting sea ice in the Arctic and floods in Asia.

“As we go into an even warmer world, certain extremes are likely to happen more often and be more intense,” Copernicus senior scientist Freja Vamborg said, pointing to heatwaves and periods of intense rain as examples.

It was the hottest September on record, according to the Copernicus Climate Change Service (Picture: Copernicus Climate Change Service)
It was the hottest September on record, according to the Copernicus Climate Change Service (Picture: Copernicus Climate Change Service)
CALISTOGA, CA - OCTOBER 01: Firefighters perform structure protection against the Glass Fire in Napa County along CA-29 just past Old Lawley Toll Rd on Thursday, Oct. 1, 2020 in Calistoga, CA.
The higher temperatures have contributed to ongoing wildfires in California. (Getty)

The September record was driven mainly by spikes in temperature in areas of Siberia, the Middle East, South America and Australia due to an extension of a long-term warming trend caused by emissions of heat-trapping gases.

Over the final three months of 2020, climate events such as the La Niña phenomenon and projected low levels of autumn Arctic sea ice will influence whether the year as a whole will become the warmest on record, the Copernicus service added.

Wildfires in California have burned more than 4 million acres (1.6 million hectares) this year, over twice the previous record for any year and an area larger than Connecticut, the state’s fire agency reported on Sunday.

California has suffered five of its six largest wildfires in history in 2020 as heatwaves and dry-lightning sieges coincided with drier conditions that climate scientists blamed on global warming.

At least 31 people have died in this year’s fires and over 8,454 homes and other structures have been destroyed.

California’s previous record burn area was nearly 2 million acres in 2018, when the state had a deadly and destructive wildfire that killed at least 85 civilians and destroyed nearly 19,000 structures in and around the mountain town of Paradise.

JAKARTA, Oct. 5, 2020 -- People walk through floodwater after a heavy rain at a residential area in Jakarta, Indonesia. Oct. 5, 2020. (Photo by Arya Manggala/Xinhua via Getty) (Xinhua/Arya Manggala via Getty Images)
People walk through floodwater after heavy rain in Jakarta, Indonesia. (Getty)
LONGYEARBYEN, NORWAY - JULY 31: Meltwater rushes down from the shrinking Longyearbreen glacier during a summer heat wave on Svalbard archipelago on July 31, 2020 near Longyearbyen, Norway. Svalbard, located far north of the Arctic Circle, is experiencing temperatures far above average that led to a new record high for the town of Longyearbyen on July 25 with 21.7 degrees Celsius. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)
Meltwater rushes down from the shrinking Longyearbreen glacier during a summer heatwave on the Svalbard archipelago. (Getty)

Under the 2015 Paris climate accord, countries to attempt to cap warming at 1.5C since pre-industrial times, which scientists say would avoid the most catastrophic impacts of climate change.

But even though large emitters, including China and the EU, have pledged to slash their emissions in the coming decades, overall, current policies would see temperatures rise far beyond the 1.5C level.

“That is the key point,” Vamborg said. “The Earth has warmed a lot, and it will carry on warming if greenhouse gas emissions continue at the rate they are at the moment.”

The last five calendar years were the world’s warmest on record.

Average global temperatures have already climbed to roughly 1C above pre-industrial times.

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