GENEVA, Switzerland, January 4, 2017 (ENS) – The year 2016 will go down in the record books as the hottest year ever, with average global temperatures set to break the records of 2015, according to data from the World Meteorological Organization covering the first 11 months of the year.

The WMO will issue consolidated figures on 2016 global temperatures in early 2017. November data confirms WMO’s assessment issued in November that 2016 will very likely be the hottest year since recordkeeping began in the mid-1880s.

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California oranges ruined by drought, May 2016, Fresno, California (Photo by U.S. Dept. Agriculture)

“The climate has broken records in 2016,” said WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas.

“In the atmosphere, carbon dioxide levels were above the symbolic level of 400 parts per million,” Taalas said. “In the oceans, record warmth contributed to widespread coral reef bleaching. And on land, droughts, floods and tropical cyclones disrupted the lives of millions of people as well as progress towards socio-economic development. A part of the disasters may be linked to climate change.”

Temperatures spiked in the early months of 2016 because of a very strong El Niño event and remained well above the long-term average for the latter part of the year, according to the reports from NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the European Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasts.

Long-term indicators of human-caused climate change, including record carbon dioxide concentrations, and glacier melt, and low sea ice, continued.

The strongest evidence for a human influence was found for temperature-related events – the increased intensity of heat waves around the world, record-low Arctic sea ice extent in March and the extraordinary extent and duration of Alaska wildfires, the WMO reports.

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Map of the November 2016 land-ocean temperature index anomaly, showing that North America and the Arctic region were much warmer than average. Central Russia was colder than normal. (Map courtesy NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies)

The WMO provisional statement on the climate in 2016, released for the UN Climate Change conference in Marrakech, Morocco, cited preliminary data to the end of September that 2016’s global temperatures are 1.2° Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

All the hottest years on record apart from 1998, during which there was a strong El Niño, have been this century.

“Temperatures in the Arctic have been particularly high,” said Taalas.
“Arctic sea ice was exceptionally low, especially during early 2016 and the October-December re-freezing period. Antarctic ice extent was also the lowest on record in November, in contrast to the trend of recent years. What happens at the Poles does not stay at the Poles but impacts weather patterns on a hemispheric scale,” he said.

The Arctic is warming at about twice the rate as the global average. The Arctic Report card, issued by NOAA and partners, highlighted that the persistent warming trend and loss of sea ice are triggering extensive Arctic changes.

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Polar bears cling to shrinking frozen Arctic land. (Photo by British Antarctic Survey)

In November 2016, parts of the Arctic region experienced unprecedented temperatures almost +20 °C (+36 Fahrenheit) warmer than normal, British researchers said.

“Scientific studies are increasingly proving the link between extreme weather – especially heat – and human-induced climate change from greenhouse gases,” said Taalas. “This increases the need for investment in better impact-based weather forecasts and early warning systems to save lives and support climate change adaptation both now and in the coming decades ahead.”

The most recent study, released on December 15 by the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, BAMS, said that numerous weather events in 2015 were made more likely by climate change.

The BAMS Special Supplement on Explaining Extreme Events from a Climate Perspective is now in its fifth year. During that time, more than 100 peer-reviewed papers have examined extreme events spanning half a decade. Approximately 65 percent of these papers have shown that human-caused climate change “influenced an event’s frequency and/or intensity in a substantial and measurable manner.”

When the WMO issues final details about the 2016 state of the climate, it will take the pre-industrial era as a baseline, and use three datasets from NOAA, NASA and the Hadley Centre of the UK’s Met Office and Climatic Research Unit, University of East Anglia.

WMO also draws on reanalysis data from the European Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasts, which has used all available observational data and an assimilation system to produce a global climatology.

Forest fire in Alaska as seen from the Top of the World Highway, June 18, 2016 (Photo by JLS Photography)

With only one month left in the year to incorporate into the statistical record, the 2016 year-to-date global temperature (January–November) was the highest on record for this period, at 0.94°C (1.69°F) above the 20th century average of 14.0°C (57.2°F), according to NOAA.

Record warmth for the year-to-date was present across Alaska, much of western Canada, parts of the northern and eastern United States, much of Central America and northern South America, various regions across Africa, parts of northern and southern Asia, much of southeast Asia island nations, according to NOAA.

The average global sea surface temperature for the year-to-date was the highest in the 137-year record. Record high average sea surface temperatures for the January–November period were present across the northern Pacific waters near Alaska, the Bering Sea, parts of the southern and western Pacific, a long stretch of the western Atlantic from the Gulf of Mexico, to parts of the southern and eastern Indian Ocean extending across the waters of the southeastern Asia island nations and Oceania.

NOAA reports that the only ocean area with record cold temperatures was east of the Drake Passage near the Antarctic Peninsula.

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