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Monday 19 February 2018

2016 warmest year ever with floods and Arctic 'heatwaves'

Antarctic sea ice has also been at a record low, in contrast to the trend in recent years (Stock picture)
Antarctic sea ice has also been at a record low, in contrast to the trend in recent years (Stock picture)
Paul Melia

Paul Melia

Last year was the warmest on record, with temperatures 1.1C above pre-industrial levels, a stark report warns.

The United Nations' World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) says 2016 "made history" with a record average global temperature, exceptionally low sea ice, and unabated sea level rise and ocean heat.

The extreme weather and climate conditions have continued into 2017, it adds, as climate change takes hold.

The WMO adds that newly released studies suggest that ocean heat may have increased more than previously believed, and that at least three times so far this winter, the Arctic has witnessed the Polar equivalent of a heatwave.

This meant that at the height of the Arctic winter and the sea ice refreezing period, there were days which were actually close to melting point.

Antarctic sea ice has also been at a record low, in contrast to the trend in recent years.

This has resulted in some areas, including Canada and much of the US, being "unusually balmy", while parts of the Arabian peninsula and North Africa were "unusually cold". The 'State of the Climate' report comes amid growing concern about US President Donald Trump's commitment to tackling global warming.

His budget plan calls for a $100m (€93m) cut in funding for climate change programmes, including the elimination of US contributions to international funds to help developing nations adapt to changing weather patterns.

The lack of action from the US will hamper efforts to tackle climate change, as it has the second-highest levels of emissions globally after China.

The "noteworthy" extreme events last year included severe droughts which brought food insecurity to millions in southern and eastern Africa and Central America.

Hurricane Matthew caused widespread suffering in Haiti, and inflicted significant economic losses in the US. Heavy rains and floods affected eastern and southern Asia.

"This report confirms that 2016 was the warmest on record - a remarkable 1.1C above the pre-industrial period, which is 0.06C above the previous record set in 2015. This increase in global temperature is consistent with other changes occurring in the climate system," said WMO secretary-general Petteri Taalas.

"With levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere consistently breaking new records, the influence of human activities on the climate system has become more and more evident."

The report follows the publication last week of the Government's draft mitigation plan on climate change, widely criticised for lacking clear policies to reduce emissions.

The WMO said it was "vital" that the Paris climate deal was implemented.

Irish Independent

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