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Climate change - 2019 set to be 2nd or 3rd hottest year on record, WMO warns

2019 is on course to be the second or third warmest year ever recorded, concluding a decade of exceptional global heat and high-impact weather, the World Meteorological Organization is warning.

The year 2019 concludes a decade of exceptional global heat, retreating ice and record sea levels driven by greenhouse gases from human activities, according to the WMO. Average temperatures for the five-year (2015-2019) and ten-year (2010-2019) periods are almost certain to be the highest on record.

The WMO provisional statement on the State of the Global Climate, says that the global average temperature in 2019 (January to October) was about 1.1 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial period.

Concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere hit a record level of 407.8 parts per million in 2018 and continued to rise in 2019.

Sea level rise has accelerated since the start of satellite measurements in 1993 because of the melting of ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica, according to the report.

The ocean, which acts as a buffer by absorbing heat and carbon dioxide, is paying a heavy price. Ocean heat is at record levels and there have been widespread marine heatwaves. Sea water is 26 percent more acidic than at the start of the industrial era. Vital marine ecosystems are being degraded.

The daily Arctic sea-ice extent minimum in September 2019 was the second lowest in the satellite record and October has seen further record low extents. In Antarctica, 2019 saw record low ice extents in some months.

“If we do not take urgent climate action now, then we are heading for a temperature increase of more than 3°C by the end of the century, with ever more harmful impacts on human wellbeing,” said WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas. “We are nowhere near on track to meet the Paris Agreement target.”

“On a day-to-day basis, the impacts of climate change play out through extreme and “abnormal” weather. And, once again in 2019, weather and climate related risks hit hard. Heatwaves and floods which used to be “once in a century” events are becoming more regular occurrences. Countries ranging from the Bahamas to Japan to Mozambique suffered the effect of devastating  tropical cyclones. Wildfires swept through the Arctic and Australia.”.

“One of the main impacts of climate change is more erratic rainfall patterns. This poses a threat to crop yields and, combined with population increase, will mean considerable food security challenges for vulnerable countries in the future.”

The report devotes an extensive section to weather and climate impacts on human health, food security, migration, ecosystems and marine life.

Climate variability and extreme weather among key drivers of recent rise in global hunger

Climate variability and extreme weather events are among the key drivers of the recent rise in global hunger and one of the leading causes of severe crises, the WMO said.

After a decade of steady decline, hunger is on the rise again – over 820 million people suffered from hunger in 2018.  Among 33 countries affected by food crises in 2018, climate variability and weather extremes a compounding driver together with economic shocks and conflict in 26 countries and the leading driver in 12 of the 26.

More than 10 million new internal displacements were recorded between January and June 2019, 7 million being triggered by hazard events such as Cyclone Idai in southeast Africa, Cyclone Fani in south Asia, Hurricane Dorian in the Caribbean, flooding in Iran, the Philippines and Ethiopia, generating acute humanitarian and protection needs.

Global Climate Indicators

The global mean temperature for the period January to October 2019 was 1.1 ± 0.1 °C above pre-industrial conditions (1850-1900). The five-year (2015-2019) and ten-year (2010-2019) averages are, respectively, almost certain to be the warmest five-year period and decade on record. Since the 1980s, each successive decade has been warmer than the last.

2019 is expected to be the second or third warmest year on record. 2016, which began with an exceptionally strong El Niño, remains the warmest year.

Large areas of the Arctic were unusually warm in 2019. Most land areas were warmer than the recent average, including South America, Europe, Africa, Asia and Oceania. The U.S. state of Alaska was also exceptionally warm. In contrast a large area of North America has been colder than the recent average.

Record greenhouse gas concentrations

In 2018, greenhouse gas concentrations reached new highs, with globally averaged mole fractions of carbon dioxide (CO2) at 407.8±0.1 parts per million (ppm), methane (CH4) at 1869±2 parts per billion (ppb) and nitrous oxide (N2O) at 331.1±0.1 ppb.  These values constitute, respectively, 147%, 259% and 123% of pre-industrial 1750 levels.

Global average figures for 2019 will not be available until late 2020, but real-time data from a number of specific locations indicate that CO2 levels continued to rise in 2019.

Acceleration of global mean sea level rise

Sea level has increased throughout the satellite altimetery record, but the rate has increased over that time, due partly to melting of ice sheets on Greenland and Antarctica. In October 2019, the global mean sea level reached its highest value since the beginning of the high-precision altimetry record (January 1993).

Ocean heat

More than 90% of the excess energy accumulating in the climate system as a result of increased concentrations of greenhouse gases goes into the ocean. In 2019, ocean heat content in the upper 700m (in a series starting in the 1950s) and upper 2000m (in a series starting in 2005) continued at record or near-record levels, with the average for the year so far exceeding the previous record highs set in 2018.

Decline of sea ice

The continued long term decline of Arctic Sea Ice was confirmed in 2019. The September monthly average extent (usually the lowest of the year) was the third lowest on record with the daily minimum extent tied for second lowest

Until 2016, Antarctic sea ice extent had shown a small long-term increase. In late 2016 this was interrupted by a sudden drop in extent to extreme values. Since then, Antarctic sea-ice extent has remained at relatively low levels.

High impact events covered in detail in the report include floods, drought, heatwaves and wildfires. The report is also warning that climate change is putting health at increasing risk, while food security continues to be negatively affected.

Disasters are increasing population displacement – more than 10 million new internal displacements were recorded between January and June 2019, the report says. Floods were the most commonly cited natural hazard contributing to displacement, followed by storms and droughts. Asia and the Pacific remains the world’s most disaster displacement-prone region due to both sudden and slow-onset disasters.

The number of new displacements associated with weather extremes could more than triple to around 22 million by the end of 2019.

The provisional State of the Climate report provides an authoritative source of information for the U.N. climate change negotiations, known as CoP25, which are currently take placing in Madrid from 2 to 13 December.

The final Statement on the State of the Climate with complete 2019 data will be published in March 2020.

Click here to download WMO Provisional Statement on the State of the Global Climate in 2019 

 

 

 

 

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