For months, reports have claimed 2015 was the hottest year on record, with temperatures reaching unprecedented levels globally.
However, this title may have been awarded a little hastily after scientists in the US found evidence to suggest it was actually the third hottest year since records began.
By studying satellite data, their results contradict the previous readings and predictions made using land-based weather stations.
The satellite readings were taken from the lower atmosphere.
They show that the temperature anomaly for December 2015 was 0.44°C (0.79°F), which was up from November’s 0.33°C (0.59°F), said the experts from University of Alabama, Huntsville (UAH).
Over the course of 12 months, this made 2015 the third warmest year since satellite records began in 1979, with an average global temperature of 0.27°C (0.49°F) above the average.
This is lower than the combined average temperature taken using land and sea-based equipment, which found the temperatures were 0.97°C (1.75°F) above the 20th century average of 12.9°C (55.2°F) in November alone.
Based on the satellite data, 1998 holds the record for the warmest year at 0.48°C, followed by 2010, at 0.34°C (0.61°F).
The most recent data has been published online by Dr Roy Spencer, a meteorologist at UAH.
‘The tropics continue [to] warm due to El Nino conditions, with December unsurprisingly the warmest month yet during the El Nino event,’ Dr Spencer wrote.
‘Since 2016 should be warmer than 2015 with the current El Nino, there is a good chance 2016 will end up as a record warm year…it all depends upon how quickly El Nino wanes later in the year.’
Dr Spencer is a proponent of natural causes as the man driver of climate change, rather than man-made causes, chiefly through the burning of fossil fuels.
The latest satellite data comes after datasets published at the end of last year from the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) showed 2015 to be the hottest year on record.
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