Global temperatures in the first six months of the year reached record highs, putting 2016 on pace to be the hottest year on record, said the UN weather agency.
“Another month, another record. And another. And another. Decades-long trends of climate change are reaching new climaxes, fuelled by the strong 2015/2016 El Niño,” said World Meteorological Organization (WMO) secretary general Petteri Taalas.
Although El Niño has now disappeared, “climate change, caused by heat-trapping greenhouse gases, will not,” said Taalas. This means the world can expect more heatwaves, more extreme rainfall and the potential for stronger tropical cyclones, according to a UN statement.
Recent figures showed that June 2016 was the 14th consecutive month of record heat on land as well as in the oceans and was the 378th consecutive month with temperatures above the 20th century average. The last month below this average was December 1984, nearly 22 years ago.
CO2 concentrations, which passed the symbolic milestone of 400 parts per million, increased sharply for the first half of 2016 and rose to nearly 407 ppm in June 2016, 4 ppm greater than June 2015.
“This underlines more starkly than ever the need to approve and implement the Paris Agreement on climate change, and to speed up the shift to low carbon economies and renewable energy,” said Mr. Taalas.
The average temperature in the first six months of 2016 was 1.3 degrees Celsius warmer than the pre-industrial era in the late 19th century, according to NASA.
Different regions in the world are reacting differently to these higher temperatures. It was notably drier across the western and central US, Spain, parts of South America and across parts of central Russia, whereas wetter-than-normal precipitation was seen across northern and central Europe, much of Australia and central and southern Asia.
Arctic sea ice is also melting faster, and the extent of Arctic sea ice at the peak of the summer melt season now typically covers 40 per cent less area than it did in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Arctic sea ice extent in September, the seasonal low point in the annual cycle, has been declining at a rate of 13.4 per cent per decade.
Warmer ocean temperatures are also contributed to unprecedented coral bleaching of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. Widespread bleaching is seen in many other parts of the world, too.