Indicator Assessment

Global and European temperatures

Indicator Assessment
Prod-ID: IND-4-en
  Also known as: CSI 012 , CLIM 001
Published 30 Sep 2020 Last modified 11 May 2021
22 min read

Global mean near-surface temperature during the last decade (2010-2019) was 0.94 to 1.03 °C warmer than the pre-industrial level, which makes it the warmest decade on record. European land temperatures have increased even faster over the same period, by 1.7 to 1.9 °C. All UNFCC member countries have committed in the Paris Agreement to limiting the global temperature increase to well below 2 °C above the pre-industrial level and to aim to limit the increase to 1.5 °C. Without drastic cuts in global greenhouse gas emissions, even the 2 °C limit will already be exceeded before 2050.

Global (left) and European land (right) average near-surface temperatures relative to the pre-industrial period

Global and European temperatures

Trends in annual global temperatures are an important indicator of the magnitude of climate change and its possible impacts. Global temperature has been rising steadily since the end of the 19th century. The rate of increase has been particularly high since the 1970s at about 0.2 °C per decade. The year 2019 was the third warmest year on record, and 19 of the 20 warmest years have occurred since 2000 (WMO, 2019; C3S, 2020). The Arctic region, but also Europe, have been warming much faster than the global average. Anthropogenic activities, particularly greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, are largely responsible for this warming.

To prevent serious environmental, economic and societal impacts of climate change, all signatories to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) committed in the 2015 Paris Agreement to limiting global temperature increase to well below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels by 2050 and to pursuing efforts to limit the increase to 1.5 °C (UNFCCC, 2016). The observed warming up to now already amounts to half of the maximum 2 °C increase that would be compatible with the Paris Agreement.

Climate modelling has been used to estimate future climate change for different emissions scenarios. Without significant efforts to curtail emissions, the increase in global temperature will continue rapidly, and even accelerate. Under three of the four emissions scenarios (or representative concentration pathways — RCPs) considered in recent IPCC reports, the maximum warming level of 2 °C would be exceeded in the 2040s. Global temperatures are projected to increase by 1.7 to 3.2 °C above pre-industrial levels under RCP4.5 and by 3.2 to 5.4 °C under RCP8.5 by the end of the century. The only scenario with a chance of staying within the limits established by the Paris Agreements is RCP2.6, with a projected warming of 0.9 to 2.3 °C. This scenario assumes a drastic reduction in emissions in the coming decades and negligible or even negative emissions by the end of the century (Collins et al., 2013; Allen et al., 2018).

Climate change projections beyond 2100 based on so-called extended concentration pathways (ECPs) have provided median estimates for global mean temperature increase by 2200, relative to pre-industrial levels, of between 1.3 °C for ECP2.6 and 7.1 °C for ECP8.5 (Meinshausen et al., 2011; Collins et al., 2013).

Europe is warming faster than the global average. The mean annual temperature over European land areas in the last decade was 1.7 to 1.9 °C warmer than during the pre-industrial period. Particularly high warming has been observed over the Iberian Peninsula, across central and north-eastern Europe, particularly in mountainous regions, and over southern Scandinavia.

The four warmest years in Europe since instrumental records began were 2014, 2015, 2018 and 2019. Many parts of Europe experienced an exceptional heat wave in June and July 2019, during which many all-time national temperature records were broken (C3S, 2020).

Projections from the EURO-CORDEX initiative suggest that temperatures across European land areas will continue to increase throughout this century at a higher rate than the global average. Land temperatures in different European regions are projected to increase further by 1.4 to 4.2 °C under the RCP4.5 scenario and by 2.7 to 6.2 °C under the RCP8.5 scenario (by 2071-2100, compared to 1971-2000). The highest level of warming is projected across north-eastern Europe and Scandinavia in winter and southern Europe in summer (Jacob et al., 2013).

Supporting information

Indicator definition

This indicator shows observed and projected changes in annual average near-surface temperature globally and for Europe. Europe is defined here as the land area in the range 34° to 72° northern latitude and -25° to 45° eastern longitude.

Temperature anomalies are presented relative to a ‘pre-industrial’ period between 1850 and 1899 (the beginning of instrumental temperature records). During this period, greenhouse gases from the industrial revolution are considered to have had a relatively small influence on the global climate compared with natural influences.

Time series of global and European land temperatures in Figure 1 are provided both as annual values (top) and as decadal averages (bottom).


The units used in this indicator are degrees Celsius (°C) and degrees Celsius per decade (°C/decade).

Temperature anomalies are presented relative to a ‘pre-industrial’ period between 1850 and 1899 (the beginning of instrumental temperature records).


Policy context and targets

Context description

The Paris Agreement adopted in December 2015 defines the long-term goal to 'hold the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels, since this would significantly reduce risks and the impacts of climate change’ (UNFCCC, 2016). The need to limit the increase in GMT in accordance with the goals of the UNFCCC is also recognised in the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030 and in Goal 13 of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable development (UNDRR, 2015; UN, 2015).



Related policy documents

No related policy documents have been specified



Methodology for indicator calculation

The following global meteorological datasets have been used to compute the time series of global mean temperature and European land temperature:

  • HadCRUT4 (Morice et al., 2012): This dataset is a collaborative product of the Met Office Hadley Centre and the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) of the University of East Anglia.
  • NOAA Global Temp v5 (Karl et al., 2015; Zhang et al., 2019): This dataset is a product of the National Centre for Environmental Information of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
  • GISTEMP v4 (Lenssen et al., 2019): This dataset is a product of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS).

The temperature anomalies from the original datasets were adjusted here to the ‘pre-industrial’ period between 1850 and 1899.

Spatially explicit temperature trends in Europe are derived from E-OBS v20.0e (Cornes et al., 2018). E-OBS is a daily gridded observational data set for precipitation, temperature and sea level pressure in Europe based on ECA&D information. The ECA&D project maintained by KNMI has collected homogeneous, long-term daily climate information from about 200 meteorological stations in most countries of Europe and parts of the Middle East. The dataset covers the period from 1950 on. Trends are calculated using a median of pairwise slopes algorithm.

The projected changes in European near-surface air temperature (°C) are based on the multi-model ensemble average of RCM simulations from the EURO-CORDEX initiative (Jacob et al., 2013). EURO-CORDEX is the European branch of the CORDEX initiative, a programme sponsored by the World Climate Research Program (WRCP) to produce improved regional climate change projections for all land regions worldwide.

Further information on all these datasets is available from the cited publications.

Methodology for gap filling


Methodology references

No methodology references available.



Methodology uncertainty


Data sets uncertainty


Rationale uncertainty


Data sources

Other info

DPSIR: State
Typology: Performance indicator (Type B - Does it matter?)
Indicator codes
  • CSI 012
  • CLIM 001
Frequency of updates
Updates are scheduled once per year
EEA Contact Info


Geographic coverage

Temporal coverage



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