This year is “very likely” to be the hottest on record, the United Nations’ World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) said this week. Preliminary data through October showed global average temperatures this year were 1.2 degrees Celsius (2.2 degrees Fahrenheit) higher than pre-industrial levels.
This marks the third consecutive year that temperature records have been broken, while 16 of the 17 hottest years recorded have been this century.
The figures are getting close to the limits set by the global climate change agreement adopted by 200 countries in Paris last year. The pact calls on states to limit the temperature rise since the industrial revolution to “well below” 2 degrees Celsius, ideally 1.5 degrees Celsius.
The added heat was stoked this year by an El Nino weather phenomenon and the ongoing burning of fossil fuels. It has led to Greenland’s ice caps melting and damaged Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.
“The extra heat from the powerful El Nino event has disappeared,” WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas said. “However, the heat from global warming will continue.”
Parts of Arctic Russia are said to have seen temperatures 6 to 7 degrees Celsius higher than the long-term average, while other Arctic and sub-Arctic regions in Russia, Alaska and northwest Canada were at least 3 degrees Celsius above average.
The most damaging weather events of 2016 were Hurricane Matthew, which killed 500 people in Haiti, and the floods in the Yangtze basin in China, which killed 310 and caused an estimated U$14 billion (13 billion euros) in damage.
“Because of climate change, the occurrence and impact of extreme events has risen,” Taalas said. “‘Once in a generation heat waves and flooding are becoming more regular. Sea level rise has increased exposure to storm surges associated with tropical cyclones,” he said.
The WMO reported that if 2016 became the hottest year on record, it would mean 16 of the 17 hottest years on record have been this century – the other one was 1998.
(DW, Sifa News). Photo credit: DW/dpa