UN re­port: Hu­man foot­print ‘in­creas­ingly vis­i­ble’ in cli­mate

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - NATION+WORLD - By Karl Rit­ter

Hot and wild and with an “in­creas­ingly vis­i­ble hu­man foot­print” — that’s how the U.N. weather agency sums up the global cli­mate in the past five years.

In a re­port re­leased Tues­day at in­ter­na­tional cli­mate talks in Morocco, the World Me­te­o­ro­log­i­cal Or­ga­ni­za­tion said 2011-2015 was the hottest five-year pe­riod on record.

That comes as no sur­prise as WMO’s an­nual re­ports have showed record av­er­age tem­per­a­tures in 2014 and 2015. But the agency said the five-year re­port pro­vides a bet­ter overview of warm­ing trends and ex­treme events such as pro­longed droughts and re­cur­rent heat­waves.

“We just had the hottest five-year pe­riod on record, with 2015 claim­ing the ti­tle of hottest in­di­vid­ual year. Even that record is likely to be beaten in 2016,” said WMO Sec­re­tary-Gen­eral Pet­teri Taalas.

The WMO’s pre­lim­i­nary cli­mate as­sess­ment for 2016 is set to be re­leased next week.

While it’s com­pli­cated to draw links be­tween sin­gle weather events and cli­mate change, the re­port found that many ex­treme events dur­ing the pe­riod were made more likely as a re­sult of man-made cli­mate change. In the case of some ex­treme high tem­per­a­tures, the prob­a­bil­ity in­creased by a factor of 10 or more, the re­port said.

“Ex­am­ples in­clude the record high sea­sonal and an­nual tem­per­a­tures in the United States in 2012 and in Aus­tralia in 2013, hot sum­mers in eastern Asia and western Europe in 2013, heat­waves in spring and au­tumn 2014 in Aus­tralia, record an­nual warmth in Europe in 2014, and a heat­wave in Ar­gentina in De­cem­ber 2013,” WMO said.

The re­port found no strong cli­mate change link for ex­treme rain­fall events. Other high­lights: • Arc­tic sum­mer sea ice cov­er­age was 28 per­cent be­low the 1981-2010 av­er­age, reach­ing a record low in 2012. By con­trast the Antarc­tic sea ice was above av­er­age, es­pe­cially the win­ter max­i­mum.

• Sur­face melt­ing of the Green­land ice sheet — a con­trib­u­tor to ris­ing seas — con­tin­ued at above-av­er­age lev­els, ex­ceed­ing the 1981-2010 av­er­age in all five years from 2011 to 2015. Moun­tain glaciers also con­tin­ued their de­cline.

• Snow cover in the north­ern hemi­sphere was “well be­low av­er­age” in all five years, con­tin­u­ing a strong down­ward trend.

Cli­mate sci­en­tists who were not in­volved with the re­port said it un­der­scored the need for gov­ern­ments to boost ef­forts to fight cli­mate change be­yond their pledges for last year’s land­mark Paris Agree­ment.

“The ev­i­dence is over­whelm­ing,” said Chris Field, di­rec­tor of the Stan­ford Woods In­sti­tute for the En­vi­ron­ment. “The new re­port from WMO is a clar­ion call for em­brac­ing and go­ing be­yond the goals of the Paris Agree­ment.”

The Paris deal calls for keep­ing global tem­per­a­ture rises be­low 2 de­grees C (3.6 de­grees Fahren­heit) com­pared with prein­dus­trial times. The av­er­age tem­per­a­ture in 2015, partly in­flu­enced by a pow­er­ful El Nino event, was al­ready half­way there.

“Halt­ing global warm­ing at a man­age­able level, as the world’s na­tions de­cided in the Paris Agree­ment, is now a race against time,” said Ste­fan Rahm­storf of the Pots­dam In­sti­tute in Ger­many.

TSVANGIRAYI MUKWAZHI — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS, FILE

In this file photo from Jan. 29, a mal­nour­ished cow walks along a dried up river bed in the vil­lage of Chivi, Zim­babwe. Hot and wild and with an “in­creas­ingly vis­i­ble hu­man foot­print” — that’s how the U.N. weather agency summed up the global cli­mate in the past five years. In a re­port re­leased Tues­day at in­ter­na­tional cli­mate talks in Morocco, the World Me­te­o­ro­log­i­cal Or­ga­ni­za­tion said 2011-2015 was the hottest five-year pe­riod on record.

DIEU NALIO CHERY — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS, FILE

This Oct. 12 photo shows a girl as she walks through debris where homes once stood af­ter Hur­ri­cane Matthew hit Jeremie, Haiti.

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