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El Niño is the warm phase of the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) and La Niña the cold phase.Aerosols diffuse incoming radiation generally cooling the planet.
The black line is the global annual mean and the red line is the five-year lowess smooth.The blue line is the monthly average, the black line is the annual average and the red line is the 5-year running average.Data source: Greenhouse gases trap outgoing radiation warming the atmosphere which in turn warms the land.Volcanoes are the largest source but there are also anthropogenic sources. Some aerosols like carbon black have warming effects.Land use change like deforestation can increase greenhouse gases through burning biomass. Incoming solar radiation varies very slightly with the main variation being an approximately 11-year cycle.Records of global average surface temperature are usually presented as anomalies rather than as absolute temperatures.
A temperature anomaly is measured against a reference value or long-term average.
The longest-running temperature record is the Central England temperature data series, that starts in 1659.
The longest-running quasi-global record starts in 1850.
2017 being the third hottest year on record meant that 17 of the last 18 warmest years have occurred since 2000.
While record-breaking years can attract considerable public interest, individual years are less significant than the overall trend.
In other words, anomalies are representative of temperature changes over large areas and distances.