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2019 a year of exceptional global heat and high-impact weather

According to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), 2019 has been the warmest year so far. The global average temperature in 2019 was about 1.1 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial period.

The Earth is warming. Melting glaciers, frequent cyclones, wildfire, earthquake, and decrease in rainfall rate screams the reality. A recent report by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) brings another haunting news in this regard. As per the report, the year 2019 has been the warmest year in decades and has seen rise of 1.1 degrees Celsius temperature.  

We all have seen how the year 2019 was. Fierce changes in the atmosphere and extreme weather phenomena caused some of the deadliest disasters this year. Typhoon Lekima Killed 172 in China, More than 80 died in Japan due to Cyclone Hagibis, heatwave in India killed 90 people as temperatures topped 120 degrees Fahrenheit (49 degrees Celsius) in the northern part of the country. Cyclone Idai took More than 900 Lives in Africa, wildfire in California, Goseong in South Korea and Siberia are some of the meteorological disasters that affected the planet leaving countless people without shelter.

Extreme heat conditions are taking an increasing toll on human health and health systems with greater impacts where there are aging populations, urbanization, urban heat island effects, and health inequities.  

In a press note released by WMO, Petteri Taalas who serves as Secretary-General of the organization says, “if we do not take urgent climate action now, then we are heading for a temperature increase of more than 3°C by the end of the century, with ever more harmful impacts on human wellbeing. We are nowhere near on track to meet the Paris Agreement target.”

“On a day-to-day basis, the impacts of climate change play out through extreme and “abnormal” weather. And, once again in 2019, weather and climate-related risks hit hard. Heatwaves and floods which used to be “once in a century” events are becoming more regular occurrences. Countries ranging from the Bahamas to Japan to Mozambique suffered the effect of devastating tropical cyclones. Wildfires swept through the Arctic and Australia,” said Mr Taalas.

As per Taalas, one of the main impacts of climate change is more erratic rainfall patterns. This poses a threat to crop yields and, combined with population increase, will mean considerable food security challenges for vulnerable countries in the future. And, what he says is now being witnessed by the world. Climate variability and extreme weather events are among the key drivers of the recent rise in global hunger and one of the leading causes of severe crises.

Increasing concentrations of carbon dioxide

The WMO report further says that the concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has hit a record level of 407.8 parts per million and it continued to rise in 2019. The sea-level rise has escalated since the start of satellite measurements in 1993 because of the melting of ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica.

Ocean heat is at record levels and there have been widespread marine heatwaves. Sea water is 26 percent more acidic than at the start of the industrial era. Vital marine ecosystems are being degraded.

More than 90% of the excess energy accumulating in the climate system as a result of increased concentrations of greenhouse gases goes into the ocean. In 2019, ocean heat content in the upper 700m (in a series starting in the 1950s) and upper 2000m (in a series starting in 2005) continued at record or near-record levels, with the average for the year so far exceeding the previous record highs set in 2018.

So far in 2019, the ocean has on average experienced around 1.5 months of unusually warm temperatures. More of the ocean had a marine heatwave classified as “Strong” (38%) than “Moderate” (28%). In the north-east Pacific, large areas reached a marine heatwave category of “Severe”.

The provisional State of the Climate report provides an authoritative source of information for the U.N. climate change negotiations, known as CoP25, which take place in Madrid from 2 to 13 December. It complements the reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

The final Statement on the State of the Climate with complete 2019 data will be published in March 2020.

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