Thursday, December 12, 2019

Heat Records Tell Us What We Need to Know

This year will go down in history as one of the warmest years on record and 2019 will also be remembered for the month of July which is the hottest month ever recorded.  The months of June, September and October also broke records. Except for January of this year, each month in 2019 has been in the top three hottest on record.

Although parts of North America were colder than usual in October,  it is important to remember that we are talking about global average temperatures. According to NOAA, temperatures in the rest of the world were all above the 30-year average (1981-2010). So even if it was or is colder in some places, that does not detract from the veracity of global warming.

As reported by the Weather Network, it is very likely that 2019 will end up being the second-warmest year on record behind 2016. According to NOAA, there's an 85 percent chance that 2019 will be the second hottest year on record and a 99.9 percent chance that 2019 will be one of the five warmest years on record (NOAA's current global average yearly heat rankings are as follows: 1st: 2016, 2nd: 2015, 3rd: 2017, 4th: 2018, and 5th: 2014).

According to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) provisional, State of the Global Climate report for 2019, the last five year period, "is currently estimated to be 1.1 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial (1850-1900) times and 0.2 degrees Celsius warmer than 2011-2015".  This is important in light of the fact that the Paris Agreement warns us to keep temperatures from warming beyond the 1.5 C above pre-industrial norms.

While one month or one year does not prove the existence of climate change, the longer term temperature record makes a compelling case. We have seen 419 consecutive months of above average temperatures. We have not seen below average temperatures in 35 years. The five warmest decades on record have all occurred in the last 50 years. The most recent decade (2010s) was the warmest in recorded history. "Since the 1980s, each successive decade has been warmer than any preceding decade since 1850," the WMO wrote. Nine of the ten warmest years have all occurred in the last decade, the five warmest years have all occurred in the past five years.

Terrestrial heat records are not our only concern. We have seen ocean heat records that may be the climate canary in the marine coalmine. We also need to appreciate the gravity of Arctic heatwaves and unprecedented Arctic wildfires which emitted 50 megatons of carbon dioxide in June.

In 2019 we saw heatwaves break records all around the world. From India to Alaska, records are falling as record breaking heat is becoming the new normal. Europe suffered through brutal heatwaves that broke records in more than a dozen countries. Most recently Australia is suffering from another summer of record breaking heat and unprecedented wildfires. A UN report found that heatwaves were the deadliest weather hazard in the 2015-19 period, affecting all continents and setting new national temperature records.

At the start of COP25 UN Secretary-General António Guterres said the world was "losing the race" on climate change.  Despite a plethora of warnings climate change causing carbon emissions are still increasing. As long as this trend continues temperatures will continue to rise. The world is warming at an ever accelerating rate and we are running out of time to stop it.

The World Keeps Warming as We are Running Out of Time

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