The European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service releases its annual findings which show that globally 2021 was among the seven warmest on record. Europe experienced a summer of extremes with severe heatwaves in the Mediterranean and floods in central Europe. Meanwhile, global concentrations of carbon dioxide and – very substantially – methane continued to increase.

Today, the Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S), implemented by the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) on behalf of the European Commission with funding from the European Union, releases new data showing that the last seven years globally were the seven warmest on record by a clear margin. Within these seven years, 2021 ranks among the cooler years, alongside 2015 and 2018. Meanwhile, Europe experienced its warmest summer on record, though close to previous warmest summers in 2010 and 2018. In conjunction with the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS), C3S also reports that preliminary analysis of satellite measurements confirm that atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations continued to rise during 2021, with carbon dioxide (CO2) levels reaching an annual global column-averaged record of approximately 414 ppm, and methane (CH4) an annual record of approximately 1876 ppb. Carbon emissions from wildfires worldwide amounted overall to 1850 megatonnes, especially fuelled by fires in Siberia. This was slightly higher than last year (1750 megatonnes of carbon emissions), although, the trend since 2003 is declining.

Global surface air temperatures

  • Globally, 2021 was the fifth warmest year on record, but only marginally warmer than 2015 and 2018
  • The annual average temperature was 0.3°C above the temperature of the 1991-2020 reference period, and 1.1-1.2°C above the pre-industrial level of 1850-1900
  • The last seven years have been the warmest years on record by a clear margin

Globally, the first five months of the year experienced relatively low temperatures compared to the recent very warm years. From June until October, however, monthly temperatures were consistently at least amongst the fourth warmest on record. Temperatures of the last 30 years (1991-2020) were close to 0.9°C above the pre-industrial level. Compared to this latest 30-year reference period, regions with most above average temperatures include a band stretching from the west coast of the USA and Canada to north-eastern Canada and Greenland, as well as large parts of central and northern Africa and the Middle East. The most below-average temperatures were found in western and easternmost Siberia, Alaska, over the central and eastern Pacific – concurrent with La Niña conditions at the beginning and the end of the year –, as well as in most of Australia and in parts of Antarctica.

Annual averages of global air temperature at a height of two metres estimated change since the pre-industrial period (left-hand axis) and relative to 1991-2020 (right-hand axis) according to different datasets: Red bars: ERA5 (ECMWF Copernicus Climate Change Service, C3S); Dots: GISTEMPv4 (NASA); HadCRUT5 (Met Office Hadley Centre); NOAAGlobalTempv5 (NOAA), JRA-55 (JMA); and Berkeley Earth. Credit: Copernicus Climate Change Service/ECMWF
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