The Past Four Years Were the Warmest on Record

The twenty-fifth edition of the WMO's annual climate report warns that climate change is set to continue and the Earth is running out of time to meet goals set in the Paris Climate Accords.

By Isabel Putinja
Apr. 15, 2019 07:55 UTC

The World Meteorological Organization’s (WMO) lat­est report reveals that the impacts of cli­mate change are accel­er­at­ing.

In the report, pub­lished on March 28, the WMO’s warns that the phys­i­cal signs and socio-eco­nomic impacts of cli­mate change are accel­er­at­ing” and that record green­house gas lev­els are caus­ing global tem­per­a­tures to shoot up to alarm­ing lev­els.

(The) global tem­per­a­ture has risen to close to 1 degree Celsius above the pre-indus­trial period. The time remain­ing to achieve com­mit­ments under the Paris agree­ment is quickly run­ning out.- Petteri Taalas, the WMO sec­re­tary gen­eral

Figures in the twenty-fifth edi­tion of the annual cli­mate report illus­trate that in the past four years, the globe has expe­ri­enced the warmest tem­per­a­tures on record, high ocean tem­per­a­tures and a record rise in sea lev­els. It also warns that the global warm­ing trend is set to con­tinue.

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The data released in this report give cause for great con­cern,” United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres wrote. The past four years were the warmest on record.”

Some of the key facts out­lined in the report include:

  • 2015 to 2018 were the four warmest years on record with 2016 and 2017 the warmest of the four.
  • The aver­age world tem­per­a­ture is 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit (1 degree Celsius) above pre-indus­trial lev­els.
  • Ocean tem­per­a­tures have reached record lev­els.
  • Sea lev­els con­tinue to rise and the Arctic and Antarctic ice caps are melt­ing.
  • Carbon diox­ide lev­els also con­tinue to rise.
  • There was an above-aver­age num­ber of trop­i­cal storms in 2018.
  • In the past year, extreme weather events impacted 62 mil­lion peo­ple world­wide. Some of these included Hurricane Florence and Hurricane Michael in the United States; Super Typhoon Mangkhut in the Philippines; heat­waves and wild­fires in the U.S., Europe and Japan; and heavy rain­fall and flood­ing in the South Indian state of Kerala.

In the fore­word to the report, Petteri Taalas, the WMO’s sec­re­tary-gen­eral warns that “[the] global tem­per­a­ture has risen to close to 1 degree Celsius above the pre-indus­trial period. The time remain­ing to achieve com­mit­ments under the Paris agree­ment is quickly run­ning out.”

Animation showing Arctic sea ice from March 5 to Sept. 15, 2020 with the 30-year average minimum shown in yellow. Video by Trent L. Schindler/NASA’s Scientific Visualization Studio

The report also cau­tions that these extreme cli­matic pat­terns have a neg­a­tive effect on agri­cul­ture and pose a real threat to food secu­rity. Following gains made in end­ing hunger and revers­ing mal­nu­tri­tion, the num­ber of under­nour­ished peo­ple increased in 2017 to 821 mil­lion due to drought sit­u­a­tions brought on by the El Niño phe­nom­e­non in 2015 and 2016, and extreme weather events.

It also points out that peo­ple depen­dent on agri­cul­ture as a liveli­hood and those liv­ing in coun­tries prone to drought and tem­per­a­ture vari­abil­ity are espe­cially vul­ner­a­ble.

A cold out­break in the win­ter of 2018 in Europe caused abnor­mal snow­falls in the south­ern Mediterranean region, and specif­i­cally in the south of France and south­ern Italy. The same region expe­ri­enced heavy rain­fall, high winds and flood­ing in late October brought by an intense low-pres­sure sys­tem in the Mediterranean Sea, with Italy suf­fer­ing the worst dam­age.

Extreme weather pat­terns in 2018 have been blamed for the poor har­vest expe­ri­enced by Greek pro­duc­ers, a record-low olive oil yield in Italy and a dis­mal har­vest in California.

In a recent sur­vey of farm­ers con­ducted by Olive Oil Times, there was a con­sen­sus that the mount­ing cli­matic extremes would call for vig­i­lance.

These data con­firm the urgency of cli­mate action,” Guterres said. There is no longer any time for delay.”


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