The year 2019 closes a decade of unprecedented global warming

The year 2019 closes a decade of unprecedented global warming

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The Earth has not stopped warming, to the point that during the last decade there have been increasingly intense atmospheric effects.

The year 2019, which has reached a global average temperature of 1.1 ºC above pre-industrial levels, has witnessed greater droughts, intense rainfall, and other extreme atmospheric phenomena, according to the report presented today by the World Meteorological Organization in COP25.

“We are 1.1 ºC above pre-industrial levels. The last 5 years have been the warmest in history ”, Petteri Taalas, Secretary General of the World Meteorological Organization, declared this morning during the presentation of the interim report on the state of the climate.

Since the 80s, each new decade has been warmer than the previous one and without a doubt the last one is the one that has broken all the records

Scientific evidence continues to show year after year the effects that the climate crisis is having on the world: retreat of the ice, unprecedented global sea level rises, warming of the oceans, more intense tropical cyclones, desertification, etc.

All of these changes have been exacerbated over the last decades by greenhouse gas emissions resulting from human activity and they continue to increase. Since the 80s, each new decade has been warmer than the previous one and without a doubt the last one is the one that has broken all the records. During these years the warmest periods have been experienced since there are records.

"2016 was the warmest year and warming has continued to increase," said Taalas. The El Niño episode of exceptional intensity that occurred that year keeps it in the top1. It is followed by 2019, which with a month to go, aims to be the second warmest year since there are records.

The increase in temperatures, which in 2019 has already reached 1.1 ºC compared to pre-industrial levels, is linked to the increase in concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. In 2018 it reached its all-time high of 407.8 parts per million, according to the latest scientific reports. In 2019, although there are no definitive data, everything indicates that emissions did not stop increasing, not only those of CO2, but also those of methane and nitrous oxide.

"If we do not take urgent measures to combat climate change now, everything points to a temperature increase of more than 3 ° C by the end of the century, and its consequences for the well-being of humanity will be even more damaging," he said. stated Taalas. "We are a long way from meeting the objective of the Paris Agreement," he added.

Although the WMO Secretary General has stated at a press conference that there is no reason to be totally pessimistic, the impacts of the climate emergency are already palpable in different regions of the world.

“The effects of climate change are manifested daily in the form of extreme and anomalous weather events. And, once again in 2019, the risks related to weather and climate had catastrophic consequences, ”said Taalas.

The effects on oceans and poles

The report notes that since 1993, when satellite measurements began, the rise in sea level has accelerated due to the melting of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets.

The ocean acts as a buffer by absorbing heat and carbon dioxide, but this has serious consequences. The accumulated heat in ocean waters has reached unprecedented levels and widespread marine heat waves have occurred.

So far in 2019, the oceans have seen, on average, about a month and a half of unusually warm temperatures. In oceanic areas affected by marine heat waves, 38% of these phenomena were classified as strong and 28% as moderate. A marine heat wave classified as severe occurred over large parts of the northeast Pacific.

On the other hand, the acidity of sea water has increased by 26% since the beginning of the industrial age. As a result, vital marine ecosystems are being degraded.

Added to this is the constant loss of sea ice in the Arctic that was confirmed in 2019. The average monthly extent of September (which is usually the month of the year with the smallest extent) was the third lowest of those recorded. data, and the minimum daily extension equaled the second lowest record.

Until 2016, the extent of sea ice in Antarctica had seen a small long-term increase. However, at the end of 2016, that trend was reversed with a sudden reduction that left the extent of sea ice at extreme minimum values. Since then, it has remained at relatively low levels.

The report places special emphasis on the most serious consequences that may have been experienced throughout this year 2019

In Greenland, the total ice sheet mass balance indicates a net loss of 329 gigatons (Gt) during the period from September 2018 to August 2019. According to satellite data, 260 Gt of ice was lost each year between 2002 and 2016.

The most severe impacts of the climate crisis

The report places special emphasis on the most serious consequences that may have been experienced throughout this year 2019. Drought, heat waves, cyclones and fires top this list of atmospheric catastrophes.

“Heat waves and floods that used to occur once every 100 years are becoming more frequent. The effects of tropical cyclones of devastating intensity were felt in countries from the Bahamas to Japan, through Mozambique, and forest fires devastated large areas of the Arctic and Australia, ”Taalas stressed.

In addition to heavy rainfall in the central US, northern Canada, northern Russia, and southwestern Asia, very rainy conditions also occurred in parts of South America. The floods were severe in northern Argentina, Uruguay and southern Brazil. The floods also affected the Islamic Republic of Iran. In October and early November, severe floods ravaged many areas of East Africa that, until then, had been hit by drought.

Water stress impacted Indonesia and neighboring countries, as well as parts of the Mekong basin. The drought that hit parts of Australia intensified in 2019. This phenomenon was also noticeable in many parts of Central America. Central Chile also experienced an exceptionally dry year, and in Santiago, accumulated precipitation from the beginning of the year to November 20 was limited to 82 mm, a figure below 25% of the long-term average.

Europe suffered two major heat waves this year. On June 28, a new national maximum temperature record of 46.0 ° C (1.9 ° C above the previous maximum) was set in France. National records were also broken in Germany (42.6 ° C), the Netherlands (40.7 ° C), Belgium (41.8 ° C), Luxembourg (40.8 ° C) and the United Kingdom (38, 7 ° C), and the heat also spread to the Nordic countries. In Helsinki, for example, the highest temperature since records began in the capital (33.2 ° C on July 28).

The heat produced a fire season that exceeded average records in several high-latitude regions, particularly Siberia and Alaska, and fires also broke out in parts of the Arctic where, in the past, this had been highly atypical. .

Between January and June 2019, more than ten million new internal displacements were registered

Added to this is the cyclone season that has been above average on a global scale. To date, 66 tropical cyclones have occurred in the Northern Hemisphere, which contrasts with the average of 56 that usually form until this time of year. One of the most intense tropical cyclones of the year was Dorian, which made landfall as a Category 5 hurricane in the Bahamas.

People's health also at risk

The report dedicates an important part to the impacts that meteorological and climatic phenomena have on people's health, food security, migration, ecosystems and marine life.

Extremely hot conditions are increasingly affecting human health and healthcare systems. In 2018, the number of vulnerable people over 65 years old exposed to heat waves increased by 220 million compared to the average for the reference period between 1986 and 2005.

Climate variability and extreme weather events are some of the main factors behind the recent increase in world hunger. In 2018, more than 820 million people suffered from it. In 26 of the 33 countries affected by food crises in 2018, climate variability and extreme weather events exacerbated the situation.

Between January and June 2019, more than 10 million new internal displacements were registered, and seven million were caused by dangerous phenomena, such as Cyclone Idai in Southeast Africa, Cyclone Fani in South Asia, Hurricane Dorian in the Caribbean and floods in the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Philippines and Ethiopia.

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