According to the United Nations weather agency, 2016 will be hottest year ever on record with global temperatures approximately 1.2° Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
“Another year. Another record,” WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas said in a statement.
The heat, which results in extreme weather events, melting ice and higher ocean levels were stoked by an El Nino weather event in the Pacific early in the year and by man-made greenhouse gases, mainly from burning fossil fuels.
Arctic sea ice extent was well below normal throughout the year. The seasonal minimum in September was 4.14 million square kilometres, the equal-second (with 2007) lowest extent on record after 2012. The winter maximum in March was the lowest on record.
Ocean temperatures were also above normal, this contributed to significant coral bleaching and disruption of marine ecosystems in some tropical waters, including the Great Barrier Reef off the east coast of Australia. Sea levels rose about 15 millimetres between November 2014 and February 2016 – five times that of the post-1993 trend of three to 3.5 mm per year.
Global temperatures continue to rise at a rate of 0.10-0.15°C per decade, and over the five years from 2011 to 2015 they averaged 0.59°C above the 1961-1990 average.
“In parts of Arctic Russia, temperatures were 6°C to 7°C above the long-term average. Many other Arctic and sub-Arctic regions in Russia, Alaska and northwest Canada were at least 3°C above average. We are used to measuring temperature records in fractions of a degree, and so this is different,” said Mr Taalas.
“Because of climate change, the occurrence and impact of extreme events has risen. ‘Once in a generation’ heatwaves and flooding are becoming more regular. Sea level rise has increased exposure to storm surges associated with tropical cyclones,” he said.
“The Paris Agreement came into force in record time and with record global commitment. The World Meteorological Organization will support the translation of the Paris Agreement into action,” he said.
Long-term changes in the climate system can also aggravate social, humanitarian and environmental pressure. According to United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees), in 2015 there were 19.2 million new displacements associated with weather, water, climate and geophysical hazards in 113 countries, more than twice as many as for conflict and violence.