The comparison to 1998 is particularly important, because if the headline is that this year is not significantly hotter than temps 19 years ago, that take a lot of wind out of the “climate change” hysteria. It means we’re not seeing the runaway takeoff in global temperatures that the global warming theory predicted. As Judith Curry has been pointing out, recent temperatures are actually at or below the bottom range for all of the global warming predictions. That is the relevant context for this story, the failure of the data to match the theory, not some infinitesimal difference between this year and last.
The left often hyperventilates about “climate deniers,” by which they mean people who are skeptical of the latest spewings of the climate alarmists. Perhaps we would be less skeptical if the climate alarmists were not constantly trying to mislead.