WMO study says 2019 was a year of ‘exceptional’ heat, ice loss

Dec. 3 (UPI) — The 2010s has been a decade of “exceptional heat” and each of the last four years set new records for global temperatures, the World Meteorological Organization said in a new study Tuesday.

The 35-page report said average temperatures in 2019 are on pace to be the second- or third-highest ever — at about 1.1 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial norms, according to data compiled from January to October.

“The year 2019 concludes a decade of exceptional global heat, retreating ice and record sea levels driven by greenhouse gases from human activities,” the agency said. “Average temperatures for the five-year (2015-2019) and ten-year (2010-2019) periods are almost certain to be the highest on record.”

The analysis by the United Nations meteorological agency notes the effect of warmer temperatures on weather phenomena like hurricanes, flooding and other extreme events that have displaced millions in 2019 and threatened millions more with food insecurity.

“If we do not take urgent climate action now, then we are heading for a temperature increase of more than [5.4 degrees] by the end of the century, with ever more harmful impacts on human well-being,” WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas said in a statement, adding that “we are nowhere near on track” to meet goals set out by the Paris Climate Agreement.

“On a day-to-day basis, the impacts of climate change play out through extreme and ‘abnormal’ weather. And, once again in 2019, weather and climate-related risks hit hard. Heat waves and floods which used to be ‘once in a century’ events are becoming more regular occurrences.”

Record high temperatures are even affecting the coldest places on Earth, the report notes. The daily Arctic sea-ice extent minimum in September 2019, for example, was the second-lowest in recorded history. Antarctica, it said, experienced record low ice extents in multiple months this year.

Europe was hit with two major heat waves in June and July as temperatures in Britain reached a record high of 101.6 degrees, the study showed.

The report also highlighted ongoing ocean warming and said “acidification” is threatening marine life. Drought conditions have extended parts of eastern Australia to Central America and uncharacteristic wildfires were reported this year as far north as Siberia and Alaska.

Tuesday’s study came a week after another WMO report that said heat-trapping greenhouse gases reached record levels in 2018.