Brace for warmest ever year warns WMO

The world is likely to see its hottest year on record in the next five years according to new research from the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).

The WMO has issued its Global Annual to Decadal Climate Update today which warned there is now a 40% chance of the annual average global temperature temporarily reaching 1.5°C above the pre-industrial levels in at least one of the next five years – and these odds are increasing with time. The figure is double that of the report’s prediction from 12 months ago.

There is a 90% likelihood of at least one year between 2021-2025 becoming the warmest on record, which would dislodge 2016 from the top ranking, according to the update, produced by the United Kingdom’s Met Office, the WMO lead centre for such predictions.

“These are more than just statistics,” said WMO Secretary-General Prof. Petteri Taalas. “Increasing temperatures mean more melting ice, higher sea levels, more heatwaves and other extreme weather, and greater impacts on food security, health, the environment and sustainable development,”

The update said over 2021-2025, high-latitude regions and the Sahel are likely to be wetter and there is an increased chance of more tropical cyclones in the Atlantic compared to the recent past (defined as the 1981-2010 average).

“This study shows – with a high level of scientific skill – that we are getting measurably and inexorably closer to the lower target of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change,” warned Taalas. “It is yet another wakeup call that the world needs to fast-track commitments to slash greenhouse gas emissions and achieve carbon neutrality.

“Technological advances now make it possible to track greenhouse gas emissions back to their sources as a means of precisely targeting reduction efforts,” he noted.

“It is also underlines the need for climate adaptation. Only half of 193 WMO Members have state of the art early warning services.  Countries should continue to develop the services that will be needed to support adaptation in climate-sensitive sectors – such as health, water, agriculture and renewable energy – and promote early warning systems that reduce the adverse impacts of extreme events. Besides limitations in early warning services we are having severe gaps in weather observations especially in Africa and island states. This has a major negative impact on the accuracy if the early warnings in those areas and globally. We need to invest in the basic networks as well.”

In 2020 – one of the three warmest years on record – the global average temperature was 1.2 °C above the pre-industrial baseline, according to the WMO’s report on the State of the Global Climate 2020, released in April. It highlighted the acceleration in climate change indicators like rising sea levels, melting sea ice, and extreme weather, as well as worsening impacts on socio-economic development.

The update said in the coming five years, the annual mean global temperature is likely to be at least 1°C warmer – within the range 0.9°C – 1.8°C – than preindustrial levels.

“The chance of temporarily reaching 1.5°C has roughly doubled compared to last year’s predictions,” it said. “This is mainly due to using an improved temperature dataset to estimate the baseline rather than sudden changes in climate indicators. It is very unlikely (10%) that the 5 year mean annual global temperature for the entire 2021-2025 period will be 1.5°C warmer than preindustrial levels, according to the climate update.”

The year 2021, and the crucial climate change negotiations, COP26, in November, have been widely described as a “make-or-break” chance to prevent climate change spiralling ever more out of control.

There is a 90% likelihood of at least one year between 2021-2025 becoming the warmest on record, which would dislodge 2016 from the top ranking, according to the update, produced by the United Kingdom’s Met Office, the WMO lead centre for such predictions.

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