It's Official: 2014 Was the Hottest Year on Earth Ever Recorded

Hottest Year on Record 2014
2014 broke climate records, and scientists point to human activity as the culprit. NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center

Last year was hot. Too hot. Anomalously hot.

Independent analyses released Friday from both NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) came to the same conclusion: A hotter year on earth has never been recorded. Plus, December hit a record all on its own; a hotter December has never been recorded, either.

The global average temperature in 2014 was 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit above the 20th century average, beating out 2010 as the record holder. In fact, over the last decade and a half, global temperatures have set records rather regularly. Scientists have recorded global temperature since 1880. The 10 hottest years on record have all happened since 1997. The trend is clear: Despite yearly fluctuation, the planet has warmed unremittingly, and it has happened relatively recently.

The chart below, courtesy of NOAA, shows global average surface temperature change since 1880, using the 20th century average temperature as a baseline. The 10 warmest years on record are displayed in dark red.

annual temp chart
A chart showing global average surface temperature changes since 1880

The year was marked by plenty of atypical climate and weather events, too. Much of the Western U.S. was warmer than average, and Arizona, California and Nevada, stricken by drought, had their warmest year on record. Meanwhile, the eastern half of the country had a cooler-than-average year, with seven states experiencing a top-10 cold year. Alaska had its warmest year since records began in 1916. Hawaii's Big Island was hit by its strongest tropical cyclone ever, the Arctic saw its fifth smallest annual ice extent, and torrential downpours caused severe flooding in India and Pakistan, which displaced over 100,000 people and killed 250.

Climate events 2014
Around the world there were many atypical climate and weather events. NOAA

NASA pointed directly at human activity as the force driving the climatic changes.

"This is the latest in a series of warm years, in a series of warm decades. While the ranking of individual years can be affected by chaotic weather patterns, the long-term trends are attributable to drivers of climate change that right now are dominated by human emissions of greenhouse gases," Gavin Schmidt, the director of NASA's Goddard Institute of Space Studies, said in a statement.