BLAME IT ALL ON CLIMATE CHANGE
Increased weather extremes expected in the decades ahead as Earth continues to heat up
scientists argue that much of the “extraordinary” weather seen this year bears the hallmarks of climate change.
The World Meteorological Organisation’s provisional figures show that 2017 is “very likely” to be in the top three warmest years on record. In fact, it could turn out to be the hottest year in the absence of the El Niño phenomenon.
The WMO scientists argue that the long-term trend of global warming driven by human activities continues unabated and that much of the “extraordinary” weather seen this year bears the hallmarks of climate change.
On the opening day of this year’s key UN climate talks, researchers from the WMO presented their annual State of the Global Climate report.
It follows on their greenhouse gases study from last week that found that concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere were the highest on record.
While the new study only covers January to September, the WMO says the average global temperature was 1.1°C above the pre-industrial figure.
This is getting dangerously close to the 1.5 degrees threshold that many island states feel temperatures must be kept under to ensure their survival.
The analysis suggests that 2017 is likely to come in 0.47 °C warmer than the 1981-2010 average. This is slightly down on 2016 when the El Niño phenomenon saw temperatures that were 0.56 °C above the average.
According to the WMO, this year vies with 2015 to be the second or third warmest yet recorded.
“The past three years have all been in the top three years in terms of temperature records. This is part of a long-term warming trend,” said WMO secretary general Petteri Taalas.
Severe food insecurity
“We have witnessed extraordinary weather, including temperatures topping 50°C in Asia, record-breaking hurricanes in rapid succession in the Caribbean and Atlantic, (and) reaching as far as Ireland, devastating monsoon flooding affecting millions of people and a relentless drought in East Africa. Many of these events bear the telltale sign of climate change caused by increased greenhouse gas concentrations from human activities,” Mr Taalas said.
Scientists still need to clearly link specific events from 2017 to rising temperatures. But they believe the fingerprints of climate change are to be seen in tropical cyclones, where the warmer seas transfer more heat to the gathering storms and increased sea levels make floods more damaging.
The Accumulated Cyclone Energy Index, which measures the intensity and duration of these events, showed its highest ever monthly values in September. It was also the first time that two Category 4 hurricanes made landfall in the same year in the US.
Hurricane Irma was a Category 5 storm. Rain gauges in Texas, recorded 1,539mm, the largest ever recorded for a single event in the mainland US.
Scientists say that extreme heat and drought contributed to many destructive wildfires such as the recent one in California
There were also significant flooding events with loss of life in Sierra Leone, Nepal, India, Bangladesh and Peru.
In contrast, droughts and heat waves affected many parts of Africa and South America. In Somalia, more than half of the country’s cropland was affected with livestock herds reduced by between 40 and 60 per cent.
Also, more than 11 million people are experiencing severe food insecurity in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia.
“This year saw weather extremes, which is not uncommon, but many of these events were made more severe by the sustained warming caused by increasing atmospheric greenhouse gas levels due to human activities,” said Richard Allan, professor of climate science at the University of Reading, in the UK.
“Increased weather extremes are expected as the Earth heats up. It is only with the substantive cuts in greenhouse gas emissions required by the Paris Accord that we can avert more widespread damage to our societies and the ecosystems upon which they depend,” Prof Allan added.
These extraordinary weather events bear the telltale sign of climate change due to greenhouse gas concentrations from human activities.” Petteri Taalas, WMO secretary general
Emaciated cattle arrive at Kenya Meat Commission, Kibarani, for the off-take programme in February from the six coastal counties affected by drought.