Torbjörn Törnqvist, the Vokes Geology Professor at Tulane University, says a NASA study showing 2020 the hottest year on record globally is especially concerning, given it occurred in a La Niña year.

"A La Niña year tends to be cooler than El Niño years when high temperatures in the Pacific Ocean increase global means temperatures," Törnqvist said. "If records start to be tied or broken during La Niña years, we may be in even more trouble than we thought.”

Earth's global average surface temperature in 2020 tied with 2016 as the warmest year on record, according to an analysis by NASA. Overall, Earth’s average temperature has risen more than 2 degrees F since the 1880s.

Törnqvist says reducing carbon emissions would go a long way in reversing the trend.

Törnqvist is a coastal geoscientist whose research is motivated by the alarming deterioration of Louisiana's coastal wetlands. He specializes in how coastal environments evolve under rapid sea-level rise and other impacts.