The team of scientists used Earth models to simulate likely temperatures for each year since 1901. Some model runs simulated the effects of greenhouse gas pollution present in the atmosphere at that time; others did not.
By comparing the results, the researchers concluded it was more likely than not that greenhouse gas pollution played a role in setting all of the last 16 yearly global temperature records.
The record set last year saw average temperatures of 1°C (1.8°F) above those of the late 19th century. A United Nations climate agreement was struck in Paris in December, aiming to keep warming "well below" 2°C (3.6°F).
The warming effects of fossil fuel use and deforestation remained relatively slight 80 years ago, when compared with the heavy hand they have played in rapid-fire records set more recently. Even so, the researchers concluded that greenhouse gas pollution in 1937 doubled the likelihood of reaching that year's high average temperature.
It would have been "virtually impossible" for Earth to have reached record annual average temperatures during this century's four record-busting years were it not for the effects of greenhouse gas pollution, said Andrew King, a climate change researcher at the University of Melbourne.