Last year was the fourth warmest in the history of observations, the EU Copernicus Climate Change Service said on Monday, January 7.
In 2018, the average global surface air temperature stood at 14.7°C, which is only 0.2°C below the highest value, scientists say.
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«Dramatic climatic events like the warm and dry summer in large parts of Europe or the increasing temperature around the Arctic regions are alarming signs to all of us,» said Jean-Noël Thépaut, head of Copernicus.
Other extreme events in 2018 included catastrophic wildfires in California and Greece, the worst flood since the 1920s in the Indian state of Kerala, and heatwaves in Australia and North Africa.
According to the US National Snow and Ice Data Center, at the beginning of 2019, the amount of sea ice around Antarctica is at a record low.
Copernicus chief scientist Freja Vamborg said that El Niño was developing in the Pacific, and 2019 would also be hot.
The last four years have seen the highest average global temperatures since observations began in the 19th century, and 2016 was the hottest due to El Niño activity. In general, the average global temperature over the past five years has been 1.1°C above pre-industrial levels.
The Copernicus report said that concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere rose to a new record of 406.7 parts per million (ppm) in 2018, compared to 404.1 in 2017, with burning of fossil fuels being the main reason for the growth.
Climatologists believe that by mid-century, the average global temperature will rise 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, leading to even more extreme weather. To keep the temperature below this level, governments need to make unprecedented cuts in greenhouse gas emissions.