Global Temperature Anomalies from 1880 to 2015. NASA

The world just had its hottest year, hottest five year period and hottest decade on record. 15 of the 16 hottest years on record have occurred this century.

The global average surface temperature in 2015 smashed all previous records, and was about 0.73°C above the 1961-1990 average of 14.0°C. For the first time, the temperature reached the milestone of 1°C above the pre-industrial 1880-1899 period. This means we are already half-way towards the 2° C limit, above which life on the planet will become increasingly precarious.

In 2015 the long-term rise in global temperatures, caused mainly by greenhouse gas emissions, combined with the effects of a powerful El Niño to turn up the heat.  Large areas of South America, Africa, much of Europe, northeast Eurasia, the Middle East and western parts of North America were particularly warm. Continental temperature records were set for Asia and South America.

2011-2015 was the hottest five-year period on record. Climate change increased the risk of heatwaves, by a factor of ten or more during that period, according to scientific assessments.

2001-2010 was the hottest decade on record, with the global average temperature at about 0.47°C above the 1961-1990. Each of the past four decades has been warmer than the previous one.

The 21st century witnessed a number of major heatwaves. This includes heatwaves in India in 2002 and 2003 which each killed more than 1 000 people; the 2003 summer heatwave in Europe which caused more than 66 000 deaths and the intense heatwave in the Russian Federation in July/August 2010

The number of cold days and nights is falling and the number of warm days and nights is increasing. This has major implications for human health, agricultural production and ecosystems.

Oceans are storing more than 90% of the excess energy trapped by greenhouse gases and will continue to warm throughout the century.

The Arctic is heating at roughly twice the speed of the global average, and this will have a lasting and far-reaching impact on other parts of the world.

Fast Facts 

Highest surface temperature ever recorded was 56.7°C (134°F) in Furnace Creek (Greenland Ranch), CA, USA, on 10/7/1913

Highest surface temperature ever recorded in southern hemisphere was 50.7°C in Oodnadatta, Australia


2015 at a Glance

Regions tab