2021 one of the seven warmest years on record

Published by  News archive

On 19th Jan 2022

The ISS pictured orbiting above the Amazon rainforest.

2021 was one of the seven warmest years on record, according to six leading international datasets consolidated by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), despite average global temperatures being temporarily cooled by successive La Niña events at either end of the year.

The HadCRUT5 dataset is compiled by the Met Office and the University of East Anglia, with support from the National Centre for Atmospheric Research. HadCRUT5 is the most recent dataset to report its global findings for 2021. It shows that the year was 0.76 ± 0.04 °C above the 1961-1990 average, placing it joint sixth warmest (with 2018).

When compared with the pre-industrial global reference period, the year was 1.1 ± 0.1 °C above the 1850-1900 average. This aligns extremely well with figures already published by other international centres.

Authoritative assessment

The WMO uses six international data sets to provide an authoritative assessment of global temperature change. They reported that 2021 was around 1.11± 0.13°C warmer than the 1850-1900 average based on an average of the six data sets. 2021 is the 7th consecutive year (2015-2021) where global temperature has been over 1.0°C above pre-industrial levels, according to all datasets used by WMO.

The ranking of individual years often hinges on small or marginal differences between years and can vary slightly between data sets. Long term warming however is clear. Since the 1980s, each decade has been warmer than the previous one and this is expected to continue.

The warmest seven years have all been since 2015, with 2016, 2019 and 2020 in the top three. An exceptionally strong El Niño event occurred in late 2015 and continued into early 2016.

Dr Colin Morice, of the Met Office, said: “2021 is one of the warmest years on record, continuing a series of measurements of a world that is warming under the effects of greenhouse gas emissions. This extends a streak of notably warm years from 2015 to 2021 - the warmest seven years in over 170 years of measurements.”

Prof Tim Osborn, of UEA's Climatic Research Unit, said: “Each year tends to be a little below or a little above the underlying long-term global warming. Global temperature data analysed by the Met Office and UEA's Climatic Research Unit show 2021 was a little below, while 2020 had been a little above, the underlying warming trend. All years, including 2021, are consistent with long-standing predictions of warming due to human activities.” 

“Back-to-back La Niña events mean that 2021 warming was relatively less pronounced compared to recent years. Even so, it was still warmer than previous years influenced by La Niña. The overall long-term warming as a result of greenhouse gases is now far larger than the year-to-year variability caused by naturally occurring climate drivers,” said WMO Secretary-General, Prof Petteri Taalas.

Global warming and other long-term climate change trends are expected to continue as a result of record levels of heat-trapping greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

Latest News

  News
A female protestor displays the
19 May 2022

USA slumbers, Europe leads in electoral integrity

The world’s leading democracy is falling behind on electoral integrity, according to new findings from the University of East Anglia (UEA) and the Royal Military...

Read more >
  News
Cranberries held in two hands.
19 May 2022

How cranberries could improve memory and ward off dementia

Adding cranberries to your diet could help improve memory and brain function, and lower ‘bad’ cholesterol – according to new research from the University of East...

Read more >
  News
Surgeons perform heart surgery in an operating theatre.
18 May 2022

Timing of heart surgery crucial, research shows

Valve replacement heart surgery should be performed earlier than conventionally thought for people with aortic stenosis – according to new research from the...

Read more >
  News
16 May 2022

From testing for plastics in teabags to a Q&A with Countrywise’s Liz Bonnin: UEA’s Green Film Festival is back

Following a two-year pandemic hiatus, the Green Film Festival at the University of East Anglia (UEA) is back from Thursday 19 May - Saturday 21 May, offering...

Read more >
Are you searching for something?
  News
16 May 2022

From testing for plastics in teabags to a Q&A with Countrywise’s Liz Bonnin: UEA’s Green Film Festival is back

Following a two-year pandemic hiatus, the Green Film Festival at the University of East Anglia (UEA) is back from Thursday 19 May - Saturday 21 May, offering...

Read more >
  News
A pink pigeon perches on a branch.
13 May 2022

Not all is rosy for the pink pigeon, study finds

The authors of a major study on the once critically endangered pink pigeon say boosting the species’ numbers is not enough to save it from extinction in the future.

Read more >
  News
World of lights with a really bright light shining from Norwich
12 May 2022

UEA’s research confirmed as ‘world-leading’ by national assessment

The global significance and real-world impact of the University of East Anglia’s (UEA’s) research has been confirmed with the Research Excellence Framework 2021...

Read more >
  News
11 May 2022

Innovation & Impact Awards 2022 winners

From saving the world’s animals through socks, improving animal nutrition to sequencing COVID-19 genomes and developing a diagnostic device for dizziness, there...

Read more >
  News
Microplastics on a finger
10 May 2022

How microplastics in the air are polluting the most remote places on earth

Microplastics are being transported to some of the most remote places on earth by the wind, according to new research involving the University of East Anglia.

Read more >
  News
A woman smells a tangerine.
06 May 2022

Research priorities for smell disorders revealed

From stem cell therapy to regenerating smell receptors, experts at the University of East Anglia have helped develop a list of research priorities for people...

Read more >
  News
Secondary School children doing Physics in Design and Technology lesson
06 May 2022

New teaching programme launched to get engineers into teaching Physics

The University of East Anglia (UEA) has been selected by the Department for Education (DfE) to run a new course aimed at getting people from an engineering or...

Read more >