2020 – Record-breaking

2020 – Record-breaking

2020 was record-breaking. According to the latest data released by the Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S) 2020 was on par with the warmest year ever recorded so far (2016). More than that, 2020 also marked the end of the warmest decade on record.

For Europe, it was the warmest year on record. Compared to the previously warmest year in Europe (2019) temperatures have been around +0.4°C higher.

CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere have continued to rise at a rate of approx. 2.3 ppm/year. The maximum CO2 concentration was reached during May of 2020 with 413 ppm.

2020 Record-breaking temperatures

2020 was hot. As a result, there was an unusually active wildfire season starting in May and continuing to autumn. The wildfires caused the release of around 244 megatonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere. This is more than 30% more compared to 2019.

The northern hemisphere experienced well above average temperatures, while parts of the southern hemisphere experienced temperatures below average. From a European perspective, 2020 was the warmest year on record. The period of December 2019 to February 2020 exceeded the previously warmest winter on record (2016) by 1.4°C. Europe was facing heatwaves from late July to early August.

And 2020 marked the warmest decade on record and the four warmest years for Europe also happened in this period.

C3S concludes that

  • on a global scale 2020 was on par with 2016
  • compared to the reference period (1981 – 2010) 2020 was 0.6°C warmer.
  • compared to the pre-industrial period of 1850 – 1900 the year 2020 was 1.25°C warmer.
  • the past six years have been the warmest six years on record
  • on a European scale the year 2020 was 1.6°C above the reference period (1981 – 2010) and 0.4°C above 2019.
  • the Arctic and Siberia faced the largest annual temperature deviation with around 6°C above average.
  • Monthly, the largest positive temperature anomalies for the region repeatedly reached more than 8°C.

2020 Record-breaking CO2-concentrations

The global CO2 concentrations reached a new maximum in 2020. Rising by around 2.3ppm, the global column-averaged maximum was approximately 413ppm. The growth rate was lower than the one of 2019, but other effects have to be taken into account, too.


2020 marked a new maximum for CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere, even with a decreased growth rate. The weather events caused by the ongoing climate change indicate that the time to act is now. Net-zero is a goal on the way to stop or at least mitigate the negative effects of climate change. The cost of inaction will be significantly higher, that the cost to arrive at net-zero.

Further Reading

More information on C3S website can be found here.

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