The WMO have today released their State of Global Climate in 2016 report, detailing a record global temperature, exceptionally low sea ice, continued sea level rise and increasing ocean temperatures, with extreme weather and climate continuing into 2017.
The authoritative annual statement is based on several international datasets maintained independently by global climate analysis centres, as well as research institutes and national meteorological and hydrological centres.
Image: WMO summary infographic (Source: WMO)
The report confirms that 2016 was the warmest on record – 1.1oC above the pre-industrial period and 0.05oC above the previous record set in 2015. Furthermore, each of the 16 years since 2001 has been at least 0.4°C above the long-term average for the 1961-1990 base period, used by WMO as a reference for climate change monitoring.
Image: Plot showing globally-averaged temperature anomalies by year (Source: WMO)
The combinations of powerful computers and long-term climate data enable scientists to demonstrate the links with long-term climate change caused by greenhouse gas emissions. Carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere reached the symbolic benchmark of 400 parts per millions in 2015 and will not fall below that level for many generations due to the long-lasting nature of CO2. The powerful 2015/2016 El Niño event boosted global temperatures in 2016, with temperatures in strong El Niño years typically 0.1°C to 0.2°C warmer than background levels.
“Globally averaged sea surface temperatures were also the warmest on record, global sea levels continued to rise, and Arctic sea-ice extent was well below average for most of the year. With levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere consistently breaking new records, the influence of human activities on the climate system has become more and more evident,” said WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas.
Arctic Sea Ice
The seasonal maximum for sea ice - 14.52 million square kilometres on 24 March - was the lowest in the 1979-2016 satellite record. Dr Emily Shuckburgh, Deputy Head of Polar Oceans at the British Antarctic Survey and Chair of the RMetS’ Climate Science Communications Group said: “2016 was exceptional from a climate perspective and the Arctic stood out as experiencing particularly extreme conditions. During winter the region saw the polar equivalent of a searing heatwave, with temperatures in January breaking previous records by a staggering 2.0° C. Arctic sea-ice extent also reached record-breaking levels, with the year as a whole showing the smallest ice coverage in the 38-year satellite record.”
“Scientific understanding leads us to expect the Arctic to warm more than elsewhere – something known as Arctic Amplification – and data records show Arctic temperatures are increasing at double the global rate. The Arctic may be remote, but changes that occur there directly affect us. The melting of the Greenland icesheet is already contributing significantly to sea level rise, and new research is highlighting that the melting of Arctic sea ice can alter weather conditions across Europe, Asia and North America.”
“The changes we are now seeing in the polar regions are a stark reminder of the scale and urgency of the climate challenge.”