In the atmosphere, around the poles and the seas, climate change is reaching disturbing new levels across the Earth. World Meteorological Organization (WMO) says that 2016 was not only the warmest year on record, but it saw the atmospheric rise in CO2 to a new high, while Arctic sea ice recorded a new winter low. It says the “extreme and unusual” conditions have continued in 2017, it says.
Reports earlier this year from major scientific bodies included NASA, NOAA and the UK’s Met Office which indicated that 2016 was the warmest year on record. The WMO’s State of the Global Climate 2016 report builds on this research with information from 80 national weather services to provide a deeper and more complete picture of the year’s climate data. On comparing with the 1961-1990 reference period, 2016 was 0.83 degrees C warmer than the average. It was around 1.1 C above the pre-industrial period and at 0.06C just a fraction warmer than the previous warmest year record in 2015. Petteri Taalas, WMO Secretary-General said, “This increase in global temperature is consistent with other changes occurring in the climate system.”
The temperature in the Arctic was about 3 degrees C above the 1961-1990 average. In Svalbard, the Norwegian island high in the Arctic circle, the yearly average was 6.5 degrees above the long-term mark. The report states that extreme weather events in 2016 included severe droughts in Southern and Central America and in Eastern Africa. Matthew Hurricane in the North Atlantic was one of the most damaging weather-related calamities, leaving hundreds of dead and swathes of destruction across Haiti.
The WMO says that the “unusual and extreme” weather and climate trends have continued into 2017. The Arctic experienced the equivalent of a heatwave, as powerful Atlantic storms drove warm, moist air into the region at least times this winter.
The melting of sea ice and changes in the Arctic are also leading to a shift in atmospheric circulation patterns impacting other parts of the world. It has caused unusual heat in some areas – In the US, over 11,000 warm temperature records were broken in early 2017.
In the face of all this information, climate researchers around the world are angered by the attitude of the Trump government in Washington. The new administration has coiled back some of the global warming measures taken by President Obama, while Scott Pruitt, the newly appointed head of the Environmental Protection Agency, denied that CO2 was a primary contributor to warming.