In Brief

Will 2020 be the hottest year on record?

Meteorologists say temperatures are set to soar

This year is set to be the hottest since measurements began, beating the record set four years ago, say meteorologists.

There is a 99% chance that 2020 will be one of the top five hottest years on record, and a 75% chance it will be the hottest ever, according to the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

A separate calculation from the Nasa Goddard Institute for Space Studies forecast a 60% likelihood that this year will set a record.

The Met Office is more reserved still, predicting a 50% likelihood, says The Guardian. Whether or not the year is record breaking, the UK agency says 2020 will extend a run of unusually warm years since 2015, which is the hottest period ever recorded.

There are signs that predictions of a record-breaking year will come true. January was the world’s hottest on record and, in February, a research base in the Antarctic registered a temperature of more than 20C for the first time on the southern continent.

In recent weeks, temperatures have remained above average. In April, the daily maximum UK temperature so far has been 3.1C above the norm, with records set in Cornwall, Dyfed and Gwynedd.

Karsten Haustein, a climate scientist at the University of Oxford, said global warming was nudging closer to 1.2C above pre-industrial levels, reports the Guardian.

“The climate crisis continues unabated,” Haustein said. “The emissions will go down this year, but the concentrations keep on rising. We are very unlikely to be able to notice any slowdown in the built-up of atmospheric GHG levels.

“But we have the unique chance now to reconsider our choices and use the corona crisis as a catalyst for more sustainable means of transport and energy production (via incentives, taxes, carbon prices etc).”

Grahame Madge, a climate spokesman for the Met Office, said: “A reliance and trust in science to inform action from governments and society to solve a global emergency are exactly the measures needed to seed in plans to solve the next crisis facing mankind: climate change.”

What is the hottest temperature ever in the UK? 

The highest ever UK temperature was recorded in Cambridge University Botanic Garden on 25 July 2019, when the mercury hit 38.7C, beating the previous record of 38.5C in Faversham, Kent, in August 2003.

Staff working at the botanic garden on the day tweeted: “No wonder we all felt as if we’d melted.”

What’s more, The Telegraph adds: “The ten hottest years on record have all occurred since 2002. The most recent of the coldest years to make the top ten was in 1963.”

What is the hottest temperature ever recorded in the world?

As you might imagine, British “heatwaves” pale in comparison with those experienced in warmer climes.

In India, for instance, each dry season brings near-intolerable temperatures and a wave of heat-related deaths. Fatalities have been particularly high in recent years – at least 2,500 people are thought to have died during a 2015 heatwave, when temperatures in the hottest regions came within a hair’s breadth of 50C.

The aptly named Death Valley desert in the southwest US is the hottest place on Earth, with summertime temperatures averaging around 46C, says Guinness World Records.

In 2016, a weather station in northwest Kuwait recorded a figure of 54C, the highest outdoor air temperature ever measured on Earth. The record, set in the remote Kuwaiti area of Mitribah, is the highest ever officially verified by the World Meteorological Organization, although some experts claim global temperatures have gone even higher.

Temperatures are said to have risen to 56.7C in Death Valley, California, on 10 July 1913. However, the figure has been disputed by meteorologists who argue that the equipment used was prone to error and not as reliable as modern recording methods.

If correct, it would have been approximately the recommended cooking temperature for a medium-rare steak, says Weather.com.

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