A forest fire burns in trees in Oregon

The world is estimated to have warmed by 1.1°C above pre-industrial levels. Image © Christian Roberts-Olsen/Shutterstock

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The last eight years have been the hottest on record

The last eight years have been the hottest years ever recorded, according to NASA, with 2021 coming in at sixth place.

The latest figures from NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) show that global temperatures are 1.1°C above preindustrial levels, and creeping ever closer to the 1.5°C limit set by politicians in Glasgow last year. 

The figures are in for how much the planet warmed during 2021.

The latest analysis from NASA found that the past 12 months were the sixth hottest year on record, with the planet warming by 1.1°C above the average from the start of the industrial revolution.

This means that the last eight years have been the warmest on record, continuing the long-term trend of a rapidly heating planet.

NASA's Administrator Bill Nelson, says, 'Science leaves no room for doubt: Climate change is the existential threat of our time.

'Eight of the top 10 warmest years on our planet occurred in the last decade, an indisputable fact that underscores the need for bold action to safeguard the future of our country - and all of humanity.'

The stats from NASA and the NOAA come just days after the European Earth monitoring agency Copernicus released their own. This analysis also showed that the last seven years were recorded history's hottest, but with 2021 coming in at fifth rather than sixth.

Houses razed to the ground by fire line a road

Wildfires are becoming increasingly common as global temperatures rise. Image © arboursabroad/Shutterstock

An ever-warming planet

The latest numbers follow the planet's long-term warming trend. The average temperature in 2020 tied with that from 2016 to be the hottest year on record, according to NASA.

Despite last year's average not being quite as high as the previous year and the European and American agencies differing slightly on where it falls in the larger trend, whether one year is hotter than the other does not really matter. What does is the long-term trend, and this is unambiguously rising at a concerning rate. 

Gavin Schmidt, the Director of GISS, NASA's centre for climate modelling, says, 'The complexity of the various analyses doesn't matter because the signals are so strong.

'The trends are all the same because the trends are so large.'

While the global average might be lower than in previous years, it masks a string of record-breaking temperatures that have been recorded all around the planet.

Europe suffered its hottest summer on record, when the mercury hit 48.8°C in Sicily and devastating wildfires ripped through Italy, Greece and Turkey. This was coupled with catastrophic floods which swept through Germany and Belgium, weather which was made all the more likely due to the warming Earth.

In Canada a temperature of 49.6°C was recorded in Lytton, before a wildfire ripped through the village and destroyed much of the settlement, while in China, the country's official meteorological agency recorded its hottest year on record in 2021, when average temperatures hit 10.7°C, which is a full 1°C higher than usual. 

In total, over 400 weather stations around the globe beat heat records last year. 

Flooding in Monreal, Germany as water pours through the street

The risk of flooding and other extreme weather is rising with the temperature. Image © M. Volk/Shutterstock

Ever-increasing impacts

The impacts of the warming planet is being felt by communities and wildlife around the world on an ever-increasing frequency and scale.

With many nations suffering from horrific wildfires, floods and extreme weather events, it has never been more important to try and limit future impacts.

Last year saw the leaders from most nations gather in Glasgow for COP26, where they restated commitments to keep global warming to below 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. It is thought that if this target can be met, some of the more severe impacts of climate change may be avoided. 

During the conference politicians and policy makers announced a range of initiatives to try and achieve this target, but were also criticised for making few binding commitments.

With average global temperatures now at between 1.1-1.2°C, time is rapidly running out to get this under control.