The world witnessed the hottest year on record in 2016, surpassing the exceptionally high temperatures of 2015 and highlighted new records in indicators of human-caused climate change, as well as loss of Artic sea ice, the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) said on Wednesday.
The UN weather agency reported that the globally averaged temperature in 2016 was about 1.1 degree Celsius higher than the pre-industrial period, “according to a consolidated analysis by continuing the trend in which 16 of the 17 hottest years on record will have been during this century (1998 is the outlier)”.
“Year 2016 was an extreme year for the global climate and stands out as the hottest year on record,” WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas, said in a press statement, stressing that “temperatures only tell part of the story”.
Taalas emphasised that “long-term indicators of human-caused climate change reached new heights in 2016, as carbon dioxide and methane concentrations surged to new records,” adding that carbon dioxide, as well as methane concentrations contributed to climate change.
Carbon dioxide remains in the atmosphere for thousands of years, trapping heat and causing the earth to warm further, it said.
It said the lifespan of carbon dioxide in the oceans was even longer, adding that it was also the single most important greenhouse gas emitted by human activities.
According to the WMO, carbon dioxide is responsible for 85 per cent of the warming effect on the Earth’s climate over the past decade.
“Rising temperatures and concentrations of major greenhouse gases in the atmosphere are not the only record-breaking indicators of climate change, also Arctic sea ice remains at very low levels.
“We have also broken sea ice minimum records in the Arctic and Antarctic.
“Greenland glacier melt – one of the contributors to sea level rise – started early and fast.
“Arctic sea ice was the lowest on record both at the start of the melt season in March and at the height of the normal refreezing period in October and November,” Taalas explained.
Based on WMO consolidated analyses, the WMO also concluded that the “Arctic is warming twice as fast the global average,” adding “the persistent loss of sea ice is driving weather, climate and ocean circulation patterns in other parts of the world”.
“Throughout 2016, there were many extreme weather events which caused huge socio-economic disruption and losses,” Taalas said.
WMO has linked weather-related events to conclusions by the International Organisation for Migration and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees UNHCR, which recently reported 19.2 million new displacements due to weather, water, climate and geophysical hazards in 113 countries in 2015.
That number is more than twice the number of people displaced due to human-related conflict and violence.
Record ocean heat contributed to widespread coral reef bleaching, including in the Great Barrier Reef, which has seen up to 50 per cent of its coral die in certain parts.