The severe heat waves that have gripped the country in recent years are likely to get worse. On Wednesday, the World Meteorological Organization announced that data and models show the planet is on track for at least one of its hottest years on record for at least one of the next five years — and that the planet will likely cross the threshold of a major climate change.
The last global heat record was reached in 2016 during El Nino, a climate pattern that occurs naturally every few years when surface temperatures in the Pacific Ocean warm. After that period, El Niño’s counter, La Niña, allows sea surface temperatures to cool. But just a few days ago NOAA announced El Nino is about to return.
New #StateofClimate update from WMO & @MetOffice:
66% chance that annual global surface temperature will temporarily exceed pre-industrial levels by 1.5°C for at least one of the next 5 years
98% chance that at least one of the next five years will be warm
— World Meteorological Organization (@WMO) May 17, 2023
“It is virtually certain that once this La Nina phase ends we will see the hottest year on record in the next five years,” World Meteorological Organization Secretary-General Petri Talas told a UN press conference on Wednesday, citing data and modelling. from 18 worldwide research centers indicating 98% probability. He said the record would be due to a combination of climate patterns and climate change.
This record will likely come as the world passes a major and terrifying milestone.
“There’s a 66% chance we’ll exceed 1.5 degrees in the next five years,” Talas said, pointing to global temperatures compared to pre-industrial times. “And there’s a 33% chance we’ll see that threshold crossed over the entire next five years.”
At that threshold, most of the landmass will experience hot days, with about 14% of the planet’s population exposed to a severe heat wave “at least once every five years,” according to NASA. The UN has also warned that with global warming of this magnitude, both rainfall and drought will become more frequent and intense, and there will be greater risks related to energy, food and water.
Indonesia, the Amazon and Central America will likely see less rainfall this year already, Talas said, while Europe, Alaska and northern Siberia are expected to see “above average” rainfall in the summer months over the next five years.
Adam Scaife, who has worked on Climate Update and worked for the UK Met Office, told Reuters it was “the first time in history that we are unlikely to exceed 1.5 degrees Celsius.”
One of the most dramatic changes from this is expected to be seen in the Arctic, Talas said, a region that has already seen More than double the warming The rest of the planet has experienced.
“Over the next five years, it is estimated that Arctic temperatures will triple the global average temperature,” he said. “…It’s going to have a big impact on the ecosystem there.”
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For Talas, the most alarming part of this data is that it indicates “we’re still going in the wrong direction.”
“It’s showing that climate change is going on and once we take out this effect of natural variability caused by El Niño … it’s showing that we’re on the wrong track again in terms of warming,” he said.
Leon Hermanson from the UK Met Office said during the press conference that his biggest concern was the impacts associated with rising temperatures.
“No one is immune to the changes that are happening, that have happened. And it’s already leading to floods, droughts, mass movements of people all over the world,” he said. “And I think we need to do a better job of understanding what this report means for those issues.”
But if the world exceeds 1.5 degrees, Hermanson said, “that’s not a reason to give up.”
“We need to emit as many greenhouse gases as possible,” he said. Earlier this year, NOAA issued a Report said emissions of the three most important contributors to climate change, carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide, all had “historically high growth rates” in 2022 that pushed them to “uncharted levels”.
“Any emissions that we can reduce will reduce warming and that will reduce these extreme impacts that we’ve talked about,” Hermanson said.
But regardless of what comes in the next few years, Talas is clear on one thing: “There is no going back to the climate that prevailed in the last century. That’s a fact.”
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