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The Global Climate Report: the eight warmest years on record witness an upsurge in climate change impacts

Today WMO released its provisional State of the Global Climate Report and an accompanying interactive story map on the eve of the UN climate negotiations in Sharm-El-Sheikh, COP27. This annual report provides an authoritative voice on the current state of the climate using key climate indicators and reporting on extreme events and their impacts. According to the report, the eight warmest years on record witnessed an upsurge in climate change impacts. Sea level rise accelerates, European glacier melt shatters records and extreme weather causes devastation. UN Secretary-General António Guterres also unveiled an Action Plan at COP27 to achieve Early Warnings for all countries in the next five years, as currently, half the countries in the world lack these.

Global Climate Report

Some highlights from the report:

Temperature

  • The past eight years are on track to be the eight warmest on record, fuelled by ever-rising greenhouse gas concentrations and accumulated heat;
  • the global mean temperature in 2022 is currently estimated to be about 1.15 [1.02 to 1.28]°C above the 1850-1900 pre-industrial average. 2015 to 2022 are likely to be the eight warmest years on record.
Global Climate Report

Water

  • The rate of sea level rise has doubled since 1993, which is a long-term and major threat to many millions of coastal dwellers and low-lying states. The acceleration is due to increasing ice melt;
  • 2022 took an exceptionally heavy toll on glaciers in the European Alps. Between 2001 and 2022 the volume of glacier ice in Switzerland experienced a decline of more than a third. The Greenland ice sheet lost mass for the 26th consecutive year and it rained (rather than snowed) there for the first time in September. Arctic sea-ice extent was below the long-term (1981-2010) average for most of the year;
  • ocean heat was at record levels in 2021, with the warming rate particularly high in the past 20 years. Why is it important? The ocean stores around 90 per cent of the accumulated heat from human emissions of greenhouse gases and it is expected that it will continue to warm in the future – a change which is irreversible on centennial to millennial time scales;
  • European rivers including the Rhine, Loire and Danube fell to critically low levels;
  • the Yangtze River at Wuhan reached its lowest recorded level for August.

Droughts and heat waves

  • In East Africa, rainfall has been below average in four consecutive wet seasons, the longest in 40 years. Humanitarian agencies are warning that another below-average season will likely result in crop failure and further exacerbate the food insecurity situations in Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia;
  • large parts of the northern hemisphere were exceptionally hot and dry. China had the most extensive and long-lasting heatwave since national records began and the second-driest summer on record;
  • large parts of Europe sweltered in repeated episodes of extreme heat. The United Kingdom saw a new national record on 19 July, when the temperature topped more than 40°C for the first time. This was accompanied by persistent and damaging drought and wildfires;
  • extreme heat waves in March and April in both India and Pakistan.

Extreme weather events

  • The southern Africa region was battered by a series of cyclones over two months at the start of the year, hitting Madagascar hardest with torrential rain and devastating floods;
  • Hurricane Ian caused extensive damage and loss of life in Cuba and southwest Florida in September;
  • record-breaking rain in July and August led to extensive flooding in Pakistan. There were at least 1,700 deaths and 33 million people affected. Furthermore, 7.9 million people were displaced.

Greenhouse gas emissions

  • Concentrations of the main greenhouse gases – carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide – once again reached record levels in 2021. The annual increase in methane concentration was the highest on record;
  • data from key monitoring stations show atmospheric levels of the three gases continue to increase in 2022.

Photo: Dr Barbara Botos.

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