Extreme weather events, including powerful heat waves and devastating floods, are now the new normal, says the World Meteorological Organization.
The state of the climate report for 2021 highlights a world that is “changing before our eyes”.
The 20-year average temperature of 2002 is about to exceed 1 ° C for the first time compared to pre-industrial levels.
And global sea level rose to a new high in 2021, according to the study.
This latest data for 2021 was released in advance by the WMO to coincide with the start of the UN climate conference in Glasgow, known as COP26.
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The state of climate report provides a snapshot of climate indicators including temperatures, extreme weather events, sea level rise and ocean conditions.
The study notes that the past seven years, including this one, will likely be the hottest on record, as greenhouse gases have reached record concentrations in the atmosphere.
The resulting rise in temperatures is pushing the planet into “uncharted territory,” the report says, with impacts growing across the planet.
“Extreme events are the new norm,” said WMO Prof Petteri Taalas. “There is growing scientific evidence that some of these bear the footprint of human-induced climate change.”
Professor Taalas detailed some of the extreme events that have been experienced around the world this year.
- It rained – instead of snowing – for the first time ever on the summit of the Greenland ice sheet
- A heatwave in Canada and adjacent parts of the United States pushed temperatures to nearly 50 ° C in a British Columbia village
- Death Valley, California reached 54.4 ° C during one of multiple heatwaves in the southwestern United States
- Months of rain fell within hours in one area of China
- Parts of Europe have seen severe flooding, causing dozens of casualties and billions of economic losses
- A second consecutive year of drought in subtropical South America reduced the flow of river basins and affected agriculture, transportation and energy production
Another worrying development, according to the WMO study, has been the rise in global sea levels.
Since they were first measured by precise satellite systems in the early 1990s, sea levels rose by 2.1 mm per year between 1993 and 2002.
But from 2013 to 2021 the increase more than doubled to 4.4mm, mainly due to rapid ice loss from glaciers and ice sheets.
“Sea levels are rising faster than at any other time in the past two millennia,” said prof. Jonathan Bomber, director of the Bristol Glaciology Center.
“If we continue on our current trajectory, that increase could exceed 2 meters by 2100, displacing some 630 million people around the world. The consequences of this are unimaginable.”
In terms of temperature, 2021 will likely be the sixth or seventh warmest on record.
This is because the first months of this year were hit by a La Niña event, a natural weather phenomenon that tends to cool global temperatures.
But the report also shows that the global temperature record is about to exceed 1C for the first time in a 20-year period.
“The fact that the 20-year average has reached more than 1.0 ° C above pre-industrial levels will focus the minds of COP26 delegates who aspire to keep the global temperature rise within the limits agreed in Paris six years ago,” said Professor Stephen Belcher, chief scientist at the UK Met Office, who contributed to the report.
Commenting on the analysis, UN Secretary General António Guterres said the planet is changing before our eyes.
“From the depths of the ocean to mountain peaks, from melting glaciers to relentless extreme weather events, ecosystems and communities around the world are being devastated,” he said.
“COP26 must be a game changer for people and the planet,” said Guterres.
The report can be found here.
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