NASA and NOAA have revealed that 2021 was the sixth warmest year on record for Earth, measuring more than 1.5°F above average, just behind 2017 which was 1.64°F above average. This means that since 1880, the 10 warmest years on record for the Earth have all occurred since 2010. 

Some of the highlights

For North America and Asia, 2021 was the seventh-warmest year on record, while Africa tied with 2019 for its third-warmest year since 1880. Both the Atlantic and Pacific hurricane seasons saw above-average activity. The Arctic also saw its seventh-smallest annual maximum ice extent. 

While no continent saw its hottest year on record in 2021, there were parts of almost every continent that did register as the record warmest. Much of China, along with parts of South America and the Middle East, all saw record warmth in 2021. Despite not every part of the globe experiencing record warmth, above-average temperatures were recorded nearly everywhere across Earth. With the exception of the southeast, the United States was still much warmer than average, recording its fourth-warmest year since the late 1800s.

Courtesy: NOAA’s National Center for Environmental Information

Why 2021’s global warmth is significant

2021 started with below-average temperatures in the central and eastern tropical Pacific Ocean, known as La Niña. Historically, La Niña has typically led to cooler temperatures across the globe. However, even with a strong La Niña, 2021 still finished in the top 10 for warmest years on record.

2021 weather and climate in Iowa

2021 was the warmest year in Iowa since 2016, measuring an average annual temperature of 50.0°, which is 1.6° above average. This ranks the 16th warmest in 149 years. This is partially due to the extreme drought that was recorded across parts of the state. By the end of the year, parts of central, north-central and northwest Iowa finished between 8 inches to 12 inches below their average yearly precipitation amounts.

Extreme weather was also a highlight in Iowa during 2021. The Dec. 15 tornado outbreak produced an astounding 61 tornadoes, which was the most ever recorded on a single day in Iowa, and it is the only tornado outbreak in Iowa during December. July 14’s tornado outbreak produced 26 tornadoes, which was also the fourth most for a single day in the state. Dec. 15 also set an all-time monthly record high for the state. 75° was recorded in many places, which broke the old record of 74° set in Thurman, Iowa, back in 1939.