Last year, planet Earth was hotter than ever before. That is according to a report by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

It says that 2016 marked the third year in a row of record warmth. NOAA scientists have kept records for the last 136 years.

Can 'marked' be exchanged by 'signalled' in the case?

2 Answers 2


Yes, it could, but it would be slightly less appropriate given the context. "Signalled (or "signaled") suggests an explicit and directed action on the part of the signaler. "Marked", by contrast, is more passive. The difference is not so big as to make the use of "signal" completely wrong, but it introduces a little bit of ambiguity where "mark" does not.

Compare various options along that spectrum of "directedness", from least to most:

...2016 was the third year...

...2016 constituted the third year...

...2016 represented the third year...

...2016 marked the third year...

Now making the meaning a little bit ambiguous:

...2016 signaled the third year...

It's ambiguous because "signalled" really can be used passively the way "marked" is, in the sense that it signalled "to all and sundry but no one in particular". But it can also tacitly imply that someone in particular is being signaled to. And so now going further in that sense, now changing the meaning completely (but subtly, so that I have to include in parentheses the tacit aspect):

...2016 signaled (to the world that) the third year...

...2016 announced (...that it was) the third year...

...2016 promulgated (... the shocking fact that it was) the third year...

Overall, I think the author's choice of "marked" was a good one.


"Marked" here is an idiomatic use that simply means "was". It's metaphoric allusion to marking "tick marks" on a wall:

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This marks the twentieth day the miners have been trapped, and no closer to rescue.

This marks the fifth time the Panthers have reached the playoffs, only to lose in the first round.

"Signals" is, I think, too active a word. "Marks" simply means that someone is keeping count.

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