Today hotter, drier, wetter world becoming the “new normal”, UN agency warns

The year 2015 made history, with shattered temperature records, intense heatwaves, exceptional rainfall, devastating drought and unusual tropical cyclone activity, according to the World Meteorological Organization. That record-breaking trend has continued in 2016.

The UN agency released an updated report on the status of the global climate, ahead of the 2016 World Meteorological Day, on 23 March, under the theme “Hotter, drier, wetter. Face the Future.”

“The alarming rate of change we are now witnessing in our climate as a result of greenhouse gas emissions is unprecedented in modern records,” said WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas.

The global average surface temperature in 2015 broke all previous records by a wide marging, at about 0.76° Celsius above the 1961-1990 average because of a powerful El Niño and human-caused global warming. With 93% of excess heat stored in the oceans, ocean heat content down to 2 000 meters also hit a new record, the WMO states.

“Our planet is sending a powerful message to world leaders to sign and implement the Paris Agreement on climate change and cut greenhouse gases now before we pass the point of no return … Today the Earth is already 1°C hotter than at the start of the twentieth century. We are halfway to the critical 2°C threshold. National climate change plans adopted so far may not be enough to avoid a temperature rise of 3°C, but we can avert the worst-case scenarios with urgent and far-reaching measures to cut carbon dioxide emissions,” said Mr Taalas.

In his message for the World Meteorological Day,  United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warned that extreme weather events are becoming “the new normal” and bold climate action is needed to “face the future now”. Ban stressed the need for acting urgently and avoiding any delay, starting by the opening of the Paris Agreement for ratification in April. “Next month, on 22 April, I have invited world leaders to New York to sign the Paris Agreement, which is essential for ensuring its prompt ratification. But, even before the Agreement comes into force, every country, every business and every citizen has a role to play in combating climate change and building a sustainable future for this and future generations”.

 

(Image: Coastal town in Haiti flooded after the Hurricane Sandy , October 2012. Photo credit: Logan Abassi UN/MINUSTAH)