By Joshua Lee
It is very likely that 2016 is on track to be the hottest year on record, with temperatures even hotter than the record-breaking temperatures recorded in 2015, according to a report from the World Metrological Association (WMO).
Average global temperatures this year were 1.2° Celsius above pre-industrial levels, meaning that 16 of the 17 hottest years on record have occurred within the current century. Scientists warned that rising global temperatures and climate change would result in extreme weather events, such as hurricanes, occurring more often and with greater intensity.
Scientists also noted that the concentration of major greenhouse gases in the atmosphere had increased to new highs. Monitoring stations on Mauna Loa recorded a carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere of 407.7 parts per million in May this year, the highest ever recorded.
The report, delivered as a part of the COP22 United Nations Climate Change conference taking place in Morocco, also found that the amount of Artic sea ice that melted during the summer period this year was well above-average. Levels of sea ice were also significantly below normal levels throughout the year, with the level of summer ice in the Artic was the second lowest on record after 2012.
“Another year. Another record. The high temperatures we saw in 2015 are set to be beaten in 2016,” said Petteri Taalas, Secretary General of the WMO: “In parts of Arctic Russia, temperatures were 6°C to 7°C above the long-term average. […] We are used to measuring temperature records in fractions of a degree, and so this is different.”
Mr Taalas added: “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.”
2016 has already seen a number of extreme weather events, causing serious humanitarian disasters.
The most significant, Hurricane Matthew, caused hundreds of deaths and injuries in the Caribbean. Many other serious and record-breaking floods, droughts and heatwaves were also recorded around the world. The report cited that out of 79 published studies on climate between 2011 and 2014, more than half found that man-made climate change was contributing to extreme weather events.
The WMO warned that rising temperatures could also put serious pressure on the environment and have serious humanitarian consequences. In 2015, around 19.2 million people were displaced due to weather, water, climate or geographical dangers.
Ocean temperatures were also higher this year. The rise in temperatures has been blamed for a disruption in the marine ecosystems and significant coral bleaching, particularly in the Pacific Ocean. Coral death rates were nearly 50% in parts of the Great Barrier Reef.
Meteorologists noted that the El Niño weather phenomenon contributed to higher temperatures during the first months of the news, worsening extreme weather events and increasing ocean temperatures. Although the additional heat from this year’s El Niño may have already dissipated, Mr Taalas warned that: “The heat from global warming will continue.”