Skip to main content

2021 was fifth hottest year on record - expert comment – University of Reading

Show access keys

2021 was fifth hottest year on record - expert comment

Release Date 12 January 2022

A new report shows 2021 was the fifth hottest year on record

New Copernicus Climate Change Service report shows last seven years globally were the seven hottest on record, with 2021 the fifth hottest even despite a cooling La Niña effect.


Professor Rowan Sutton, NCAS scientist at the University of Reading, said:

“At a global level the warming may appear gradual but it is the impact on extreme events in many different parts of the world that is dramatic. 

“We should see the record breaking 2021 events, such as the heatwave in Canada and floods in Germany, as a punch in the face to make politicians and public alike wake up to the urgency of the climate emergency.

"Moreover, the continued increases in greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere screams out that the underlying causes have yet to be addressed.”


Professor Richard Allan, Professor of Climate Science at the University of Reading, said:

“Although La Niña conditions in the Pacific ocean temporarily suppressed slightly human-caused warming of climate in the first half of 2021, the damaging flooding in central Europe and severe heatwaves and wildfires across the Mediterranean and North America illustrate that when extreme weather patterns hit, they are more severe in a world that is over 1 degree Celsius warmer than pre-industrial times.

"This ongoing monitoring of the planet is vital in documenting and improving resilience to impacts and identifying surprises that are emerging such as a continued surge in methane concentrations and the shear severity of climatic extremes now being experienced.”


Professor Sir Brian Hoskins, Emeritus Professor of Meteorology at the University of Reading and Chair of the Grantham Institute - Climate Change and the Environment at Imperial College London, said:

"It gets difficult to say something new each time we see signs of another nail in the planetary coffin!

"Yet another warning of what we are doing to our planetary home. Real action to curb our greenhouse gas emissions in the UK and globally is desperately needed."


Chloe Brimicombe, PhD heatwaves researcher at the Walker Institute at the University of Reading, said:

“The fact temperature records were broken for days on end in so many regions of the world in 2021 even despite the cooling influence of a La Niña is pretty shocking.

“Climate change is pushing the average global temperature higher and higher, which means when we have heatwaves the maximum temperatures also increase. If 2021 had not been a La Niña year, we would have seen even more people’s health affected by extreme heat.

“We need to treat climate change as an illness of the Earth, with its symptoms in the form of weather hazards like extreme heat. Reports like this are shocking and a devastating reminder of what we are doing to our planet every day. We must make 2022 a year of action.”

We use Javascript to improve your experience on, but it looks like yours is turned off. Everything will still work, but it is even more beautiful with Javascript in action. Find out more about why and how to turn it back on here.
We also use cookies to improve your time on the site, for more information please see our cookie policy.