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2021 was the sixth-warmest year on record for the globe

In a report recently released by NOAA scientists, the global surface temperature for 2021 was the sixth highest since record keeping began in 1880.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — We experienced quite a flurry of weather extremes across the globe in 2021. From Hurricane Ida and Typhoon Rai, to an intense heat wave over southern Europe, to the major winter and ice storm that rocked Texas.

While each event may not seem to have an effect on your day to day life, the climate is changing and it's impacting all of us whether we realize it or not.

Now, NOAA has released a report indicating the global surface temperature for 2021 was the sixth highest since record keeping began in 1880.

The average temperature for 2021 across the globe was 1.51°F (0.84°C) above the 20th-century average. This makes it the sixth highest among all years in the 1880-2021 record. Nominally, the year 2021 marks the 45th consecutive year (since 1977) with global temperatures above the 20th-century average. The years 2013 through 2021 rank among the 10-warmest years on record.

From the report, "for the 21-year span that is considered a reasonable surrogate for pre-industrial conditions (1880–1900), the 2021 global land and ocean temperature was 1.87°F (1.04°C) above the average. The annual global surface temperature has increased at an average rate of +0.14°F (+0.08°C) per decade since 1880; however, since 1981 the average rate of increase is more than twice that rate (+0.32°F / +0.18°C)."

2021 began in the midst of a cold phase El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) phase across the central and eastern tropical Pacific Ocean, which developed in August 2020. This phase, known as La Niña, favors slightly cooler global temperatures, while the warm phase ENSO (also known as El Niño) tends to boost global temperatures.

The report goes on to say, "2021 Northern Hemisphere surface temperature was the sixth highest in the 142-year record at 1.96°F (1.09°C) above the 20th century average. Of note, the Northern Hemisphere land surface temperature was the third highest on record. Only the years of 2016 (second) and 2020 (warmest) were warmer. Meanwhile, the 2021 Southern Hemisphere surface temperature was the ninth highest on record."

There were many places across the Earth in 2021 with record-high temperatures over land. For example, northern Africa, southern Asia, and southern South America. There were record-high sea surface temperatures observed as well, including over portions of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

There were no record-cold temperatures on a whole for the year.

"Regionally, the annual average temperature departure for Africa tied with 2019 as the third highest on record, behind 2010 (second-warmest) and 2016 (warmest). North America, South America, Europe, and Asia each had an annual temperature that ranked among the nine warmest on record. While Oceania had an above-average annual temperature, 2021 was its coolest year since 2012," the press release stated.

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This summary from NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information is part of the suite of climate services NOAA provides to government, business, academia and the public to support informed decision-making.