Saturday 25 March 2017

Temperatures reach 'significant milestone'

Michel Jarraud, secretary-general of the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO), at the presentation of the report in Geneva
Michel Jarraud, secretary-general of the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO), at the presentation of the report in Geneva
Pollution
Paul Melia

Paul Melia

Global average temperatures will be the warmest on record due to human influence on the climate, a major report has warned.

Temperatures will reach the "significant milestone" of being 1C warmer than pre-industrial levels, the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) cautioned.

And it says that the period 2011-2015 has also broken records, with many extreme weather events, including heatwaves, influenced by global warming.

"The state of the global climate in 2015 will make history for a number of reasons," WMO secretary-general Michel Jarraud said.

"Levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere reached new highs, 2015 is likely to be the hottest on record and with ocean temperatures at the highest level since measurements began.

"This is all bad news for the planet. Greenhouse gas emissions, which are causing climate change, can be controlled.

"We have the knowledge and the tools to act. We have a choice. Future generations will not."

The WMO issued its provisional statement on the status of the climate in 2015, and an additional five-year analysis for 2011-2015, to inform climate change talks taking place in Paris next week.

Catastrophic

It is hoped that world leaders will strike a legally binding deal to reduce emissions and help keep temperature rises below 2C - the tipping point beyond which climate change is expected to take hold with catastrophic consequences.

A preliminary estimate on data between January and October shows that average global surface temperatures were 0.73C above the 1961-1990 average. However, they are 1C above the pre-industrial 1880-1899 period.

The records show that South America and Asia are having their hottest years on record, with Africa and Europe having their second hottest. The analysis also shows:

• Global sea levels are at their highest since records began.

• A major heatwave in May and June pushed the mercury above 45C in parts of India. In Poland, Wroclaw experienced an all-time high of 38.9C.

• China experienced 35 heavy rain events between May and October, which affected 75 million people and caused flood damage estimated at $25bn.

• The strongest hurricane on record, Patricia, was recorded in October with wind speeds of up to 320kmh.

• There were 400 fires which burned 728,000 hectares in Alaska, breaking the previous record of 216 fires affecting 445,000 hectares.

• The maximum amount of sea ice in the Arctic, at 14.5 million square kilometres recorded in February, is the lowest on record.

The WMO says that the probability of many extreme events in the last five years, "especially those relating to extreme high temperatures", have increased due to "human-induced climate change".

Multi-year drought in parts of the US, Australia and Africa are "consistent with projections of near and long-term climate change", it said, adding that they had not yet been the subject of formal study.

These, and other events, were of "considerable concern in the context of potential tipping points in the climate system," it concluded.

Irish Independent

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