Global temperatures last year were the fourth highest on record, surpassed only by the preceding three years, according to federal climate scientists with NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Together, the last five years have been the warmest ever recorded, according to The Verge.

Furthermore, despite being just the fourth hottest year overall, 2018 saw record-high annual temperatures in places like Europe, the Middle East, Russia, and New Zealand, offset by lower temperatures elsewhere. Record-high ocean temperatures also occurred in parts of the Atlantic and Pacific. Arctic and Antarctic sea ice both shrunk to their second smallest annual footprints.

December’s combined average ocean and land temperatures ranked as the second warmest December since 1880.

The new data follows a consistent long-term trend – NASA says average global surface temperatures have risen about 2 degrees Fahrenheit since 1880.

“2018 is yet again an extremely warm year on top of a long-term global warming trend,” said NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies director Gavin Schmidt. “When you have a statistic like the last five years are the warmest we’ve ever seen, that seems notable.”

Schmidt noted that the warming has been fueled by emissions of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide from human activities.

Deke Arndt, chief of NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information monitoring section, explained that it’s crucial to pay attention to long-term trends in spite of the short-term rises and falls. In other words, there will be colder years, and certainly cold weather, despite the long-term temperature increase.

He compared the shift in temperatures to “riding up an escalator over time, and jumping up and down while you’re on that escalator,” saying “the long term trip along the escalator primarily, that’s a metaphor for the long term global warming that we’re seeing.”

Last month, as much of the US faced extreme cold and high snowfall as a result of the polar vortex — cold air drifting southward from the Arctic — President Trump tweeted:

“In the beautiful Midwest, windchill temperatures are reaching minus 60 degrees, the coldest ever recorded. In coming days, expected to get even colder. People can’t last outside even for minutes. What the hell is going on with Global Waming? Please come back fast, we need you!”

In response, NOAA tweeted a link to an article explaining that winter storms do not contradict global warming. In fact, the article outlines how climate change is likely contributing to storms, and scientists say that warming temperatures in the Arctic itself could be driving cold air further south.

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