The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) annual climate report released on Wednesday can be read as a long list of extreme weather and natural disasters. But maybe it’s a preview of the following things.
Based on data from dozens of international experts and organizations with data from January to October, 2020 2020 will be one of the three warmest years after 2016 and 2019. The average global temperature was determined to be about 1.2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
Worryingly, 2020 was an unusually warm despite the cooling effect of La Niña. The climatic phenomenon, which developed in August and intensified in October, is usually associated with lower-than-normal sea surface temperatures in the Pacific Ocean caused by changes in wind, barometric pressure, and rainfall. While La Niña is limited to the Pacific Ocean, its impact cools the temperature of the entire planet, such as the Earth’s natural air conditioner. But its impact was more than offset by the heat trapped by the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, WMO said.
The group’s secretary general, Petteri Taalas, said that unusually warm years in the past, such as in 2016, coincided with a strong El Niño event that runs counter to La Niña and higher-than-average sea surface temperatures and thus global warming. causes. Not anymore.
“Despite the current La Niña conditions, this year has already shown a record record comparable to the previous record in 2016,” Taalas said in a press release accompanying the main report.
WMO also said the period from 2011 to 2020 will be the hottest decade of records and the hottest six years since 2015. The trend is likely to continue. While emissions fell at the time of the spring close, the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere rose to a new record high this year.
According to Taalas, there is now at least one in five chances that the average global temperature will temporarily be 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industry levels by 2024 – a critical threshold the Paris Agreement aims to limit global warming.
The effects of this rapid warming have been felt all year round around the world – from extreme heat and fires to floods and the record period of the Atlantic hurricane. Taalas summed up 2020 as “another extraordinary year for our climate.”
Millions of people have been forced to leave their homes – some permanently – due to extreme weather conditions and other events caused or frustrated by climate change. Hundreds died.
Late last year and early this year, Australia suffered the record-breaking bushy fire season. Research has shown that these fires are at least 30% more likely due to the climate crisis. At least 33 people and an estimated 1 billion animals have died in the fires, according to the Australian Parliament. Hundreds died from the smoke.
At least 43 people died in the fall as a result of devastating fires in the western United States. In October, California recorded the first “gigafire” in modern history, a flame term burning at least a million acres of land.
The South American Pantanal, the world’s largest tropical wetland, has been burning for months.
This year has also brought a wealth of evidence to the climate trend that scientists have been warning about for some time: hurricanes, typhoons and tropical cyclones around the world are becoming stronger and potentially more deadly as the globe warms due to the climate crisis.
The number of tropical cyclones worldwide exceeded the 2020 average. During the North Atlantic hurricane season, most of the storms named were on record. Many caused death and destruction. At least 100 people died last month when the tropical depression Eta hit Central America. About three weeks later, Hurricane Iota, which hit Nicaragua, was the strongest hurricane in the Atlantic in 2020, and the strongest to date for the country. In the United States, Hurricane Laura killed at least 27 people in August.
Dozens of people died in the Philippines when two consecutive typhoons hit each other in 10 days in November.
It is important that global oceans continue to warm. The oceans are a good indicator of the real impact of climate change. Covering almost three-quarters of the Earth’s surface, they absorb the vast majority of the world’s heat. WMO reports that more than 80% of the global ocean experienced marine heatwaves sometime in 2020.
The report highlighted the North Pole as an area undergoing “drastic changes” as global temperatures rise. In September, the amount of Arctic sea ice has shrunk to its second lowest level since record highs began in 1978.
According to the report, the Greenland ice sheet continued to lose weight, albeit at a slower pace than was seen in 2019.
Ice cover plays a key role in regulating the global climate. Its glossy surface reflects heat back into the atmosphere. When it melts or doesn’t freeze, the darker ocean surface absorbs more heat.
According to WMO, 2020 also brought an unusually strong heatwave – especially in North Asia, especially in the Siberian Arctic. In parts of northern Siberia, the year so far has been 5 degrees Celsius or warmer than average, WMO said.
South America and much of Europe also experienced heatwaves and prolonged droughts.
There have been a number of temperature records this year. When mercury reached 54.4 degrees Celsius in Death Valley, California in August, it was the highest temperature known in the world for at least the past 80 years.
And while heatwaves and droughts have been experienced in some parts of the world, they have suffered fatal floods in other areas. According to the report, more than 2,000 deaths were reported during the floods in India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Myanmar.