Earth could be headed for its warmest period on record

Firefighter Jose Corona sprays water as flames from the Camp fire consume a home in Magalia California in November 2018

On Wednesday it incorporated the final weeks of past year into its climate models and concluded that average global surface temperature in 2018 was 1 degree Celsius (1.8 Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial baseline levels. Scientists warn that if we're to avoid the worst affects of climate change, we cannot allow the temperature to rise more than 2 degrees compared to pre-industrial levels.

NASA, NOAA, JMA, Berkeley Earth and the UK Met Office all agree: 2018 was the fourth hottest year in the record books.

The average global temperature has risen about 2 degrees Fahrenheit, or a little over 1 degree Celsius, since the 1880s.

Weather extremes last year included wildfires in California and Greece, drought in South Africa, floods in India, while the new year saw Queensland and Tasmania threatened by record-breaking floods and bushfires.

Last December was the second-warmest December in the 139 years that records have been kept.

Rowan Sutton, director of science for the National Centre for Atmospheric Science (NCAS) said that will likely mean more heat records in the years to come.

All the data points to one conclusion: 2018 was hotter than every single year between 1880 and 2014; only the three prior years were warmer than last year.

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Changes in Arctic temperatures also contribute to an increase in extreme weather events as the jet stream, a circular current of air around the Arctic that is responsible for weather patterns in the Northern Hemisphere, gets disrupted.

"That is not saying the Paris Agreement is done for... but it's a worrying sign", he said.

"The 14 events, in total, claimed at least 247 lives and cost $91 billion", NOAA said in a statement.

Global average temperature anomaly map, showing that there are far more warm-than-normal than colder-than-normal regions on the planet.

A United Nations report previous year said the world is likely to breach 1.5C sometime between 2030 and 2052 on current trends, triggering ever more heat waves, powerful storms, droughts, mudslides, extinctions and rising sea levels.

He called for more, greener investments, ranging from defences against rising seas to drought-resistant crops.

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