This post—claiming that “we just had 2 years (2016-2018) of record-breaking Global Cooling”—has been shared over 300 times on Facebook.
It is incorrect—while temperatures in 2017 and 2018 were lower than 2016, global temperatures have not dropped sharply, nor at record breaking levels, and there is no “global cooling” trend occurring.
“Global cooling” is typically used to describe a long term period during which the earth’s average temperature is cooling.
But data from NASA clearly shows that opposite is happening. We are experiencing global warming: the planet is getting hotter over time, and at a faster and faster pace.
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All the evidence shows that the planet is getting hotter
It’s correct that the global average temperature was higher in 2016 than in 2017 or 2018, but this is not evidence that “global cooling” is occurring.
2016 was the hottest year on record, 2017 was the second-hottest, and 2018 was the fourth-hottest, according to the data from NASA that is linked in the Facebook post itself. 18 of the 19 warmest years on record have occurred since 2001, and the average global temperature has increased by about 0.8° to 1.0° Celsius in recent years, compared to the average temperature between 1951 and 1980.
As Gavin Schmidt, Director of the Goddard Institute for Space Studies summarises: “2018 is yet again an extremely warm year on top of a long-term global warming trend”.
This graph of NASA’s data shows that long-term trend more clearly. Global warming does not mean that every year has to be hotter than the year before. Rather, it means that generally average temperatures are on the rise (the red line), even if they may fluctuate somewhat year-to-year (the blue line).
The drop in temperature in 2017 and 2018 is not “record-breaking” as the post suggests. Since 1980, there have been eight separate years (including 2011 and 2008) that saw bigger drops in the average global temperature than the ones we saw in 2017 and 2018.
Judith Curry, a climatologist and former chair of the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the Georgia Institute of Technology has commented on the slightly lower temperatures in 2017 and 2018. She said: “A two-year trend is not meaningful in terms of understanding anything about how climate is changing.”
Climate change continued to have a big impact on the planet in 2018
Even if it was only the fourth-hottest year on record across the planet as a whole, plenty of cities and countries did see their hottest-ever temperatures in 2018. This interactive map from the BBC allows you to see this in full.
Rising temperatures were also linked to plenty of other extreme weather events last year.
The World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) points to “abnormal” levels of heatwaves, wildfire and drought in much of Europe and the USA in 2018. There were also floods in Kerala that affected over five million people, and hundreds of people killed by flooding in Japan. The WMO has produced a map charting all of the extreme weather events in 2018.