Tuesday 24 October 2017

Warmest year on record as climate change takes hold

A bird flying through the long grass in the Phoenix Park, Dublin, last night
A bird flying through the long grass in the Phoenix Park, Dublin, last night
Paul Melia

Paul Melia

Last year was the warmest on record as the Earth continues to undergo rapid climate change.

There has been an increase in both land and ocean temperatures and a rise in sea levels, with greenhouse gas emissions now reaching new levels.

Ireland is among 20 countries in Europe which experienced its warmest year on record, with above-average temperatures reported almost everywhere. It was also the wettest winter since records began in 1866, with rainfall twice normal levels in some parts.

Summer rainfall was above average, except in the west, while 50pc more fell in August than expected.

The 'State of the Climate 2014' report from the American Meteorological Society draws on observations recorded by more than 400 scientists in 58 countries across the world.

It finds that temperatures have increased from the depths of the ocean to the outer atmosphere.

The report comes in advance of a United Nations conference in Paris later this year, where it is hoped world leaders will agree a global strategy to limit warming to 2C and set out clear targets to reduce emissions from industry, transport, agriculture and other sectors.

One of the report's editors, Professor Peter Thorne from Maynooth University, said it confirmed that the planet's climate was changing.


"The 2014 report confirms yet again that we live in a world undergoing rapid climate change," he said.

"The numbers are in and there is no room for reasonable doubt that the climate system continues to warm with record high sea levels, record ocean heat content and record warm sea surface temperatures."

The report finds that major greenhouse gas concentrations, including carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide, continued to rise during 2014, once again reaching historic high values. They reached a global average of 397.2 parts per million (ppm) for the year. This compares with a global average of 354 ppm in 1990 when the report was first published.

Four independent global datasets also show that 2014 was the warmest on record. Average temperatures have increased by 0.88C since the 1880s. Sea surface temperatures were at a record high, along with global average sea levels.

It also shows that the Arctic continues to warm, and snow started melting up to 30 days earlier than between 1998 and 2010. Tropical cyclones were above average, with 91 tropical cyclones in 2014, well above the 1981-2010 average of 82 storms.

Professor Thorne said it was an "open question" as to whether the report would help drive an agreement in Paris, but that it showed that scientists had an "increasing ability" to diagnose the climate system.

"We're looking at more and more detail and are getting a better picture," he said.

"This is like going to the doctor every year to get a physical examination. We're probing the climate system and placing it in the context of what happened in previous years."

Irish Independent

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