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Tuesday 24 October 2017

Planet warming at unprecedented rate as 2016 to be hottest year ever

Preliminary data shows that over the first nine months of 2016, average global temperatures were 0.88C above the average of 14C recorded between 1961 and 1990, which the WMO uses as a base line. Photo: Stock
Preliminary data shows that over the first nine months of 2016, average global temperatures were 0.88C above the average of 14C recorded between 1961 and 1990, which the WMO uses as a base line. Photo: Stock
Paul Melia

Paul Melia

This year is on track to be the hottest on record, with average global temperatures now 1.2C warmer than before the industrial revolution.

Emissions from burning fossil fuels are the most significant factor driving temperature increases, according to the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO), which has warned the planet is warming at an unprecedented rate.

Some 16 of the 17 hottest years on record have been this century. Preliminary data shows that over the first nine months of 2016, average global temperatures were 0.88C above the average of 14C recorded between 1961 and 1990, which the WMO uses as a base line.

They are 1.2C warmer than pre-industrial levels, and remain at a "sufficiently high level" for 2016 to be the hottest year on record.

"Another year. Another record. The high temperatures we saw in 2015 are set to be beaten in 2016," said WMO secretary-general Petteri Taalas.

"The extra heat from the powerful El Niño event has disappeared. The heat from global warming will continue. Because of climate change, the occurrence and impact of extreme events has risen.

"Once in a generation heatwaves and flooding are becoming more regular. Sea level rise has increased exposure to storm surges associated with tropical cyclones."

The data was published at the UN climate talks in Marrakesh, Morocco, where negotiators are pushing forward with the Paris Climate Agreement, which aims to keep global temperature rises to no more than 2C. Scientists have warned of a tipping point if warming of more than 2C occurs, which will result in irreversible changes to the climate system.

It comes after the WMO last week warned of a direct link between climate change and extreme weather events, including Storm Desmond which struck Ireland last winter.

Of 79 studies published by the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society between 2011 and 2014, more than half found that human-induced climate change contributed to the extreme event in question. Some studies found that the probability of extreme heat increased by 10 times or more.

In parts of Arctic Russia, temperatures were 6C to 7C above the long-term average. Concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere "continue to increase to new records", with Arctic sea ice at "very low levels" with "early melting" of the Greenland ice sheet. Extreme weather events, including Hurricane Matthew, caused "considerable socio-economic losses" across the planet.

Extreme weather and climate-elated events in 2015/2016 also had significant impacts on food production, with more than 60 million people affected. According to the UN high commissioner for refugees, weather-related events resulted in almost 15 million people being displaced last year.

  •  Last winter's floods were the worst on record with more than 42 trillion litres of water falling over a three-month period which caused devastation across Cork, Kerry, Mayo, Galway and Roscommon.  A report from the National Directorate for Fire and Emergency Management said winter storms wreaked additional havoc because November was an "exceptionally wet month" and saturated ground was unable to absorb more water which caused rivers and streams to burst their banks.

Irish Independent

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