2017 set to be one of hottest years on record

This year is expected to be one of the hottest on record, with temperatures more than 1C above pre-industrial levels, the World Meteorological Organisation has said.

While 2017 won’t be hotter than the record 2016, it is expected to be the second- or third-warmest year recorded — and the hottest without the influence of the warm ‘El Nino’ ocean current, which pushes up global temperatures.

High temperatures have been accompanied by “extraordinary weather”, from record-breaking hurricanes to heatwaves, flooding and drought, many of which bear the tell-tale sign of climate change caused by human activity, the WMO said.

As annual, UN climate change talks hosted by Fiji begin in Germany, the WMO said the average global temperature, from January to September 2017, was 1.1C above the pre-industrial era.

As a result of a powerful El Nino, 2016 is likely to remain the hottest year on record, but 2017 is expected to join 2015 as the second- or third-hottest. The years 2013 to 2017 are likely to be the hottest five-year period on record.

Parts of southern Europe including Italy, North Africa, parts of eastern and southern Africa, and the Asian part of Russia experienced record warm conditions.

Other indicators of rising temperatures include Arctic sea ice, which was well below average throughout 2017 and was at record low-levels for the first four months of the year. Sea-ice cover in Antarctica also hit record lows.

Globally, sea-surface temperatures in 2017 are on track to be among the three highest on record, with some significant coral “bleaching” caused by over-warm oceans, including on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.

Major, high-impact hurricanes battered the US, with Harvey, in August, followed by Irma and Maria, in September.

Ophelia reached major hurricane status more than 600 miles further north-east than any previous North Atlantic hurricane, and caused significant damage here in Ireland.

While there is no clear evidence that climate change is increasing the frequency of hurricanes such as Harvey, it is likely human-induced global warming is making rainfall more intense, as rising sea levels worsen storm surges, the WMO said.

During 2017, exceptionally heavy rain caused a landslide in Sierra Leone, many parts of the Indian subcontinent were hit by flooding, as was Peru and areas of southern China, while east Africa remained gripped by drought.

Italy had drought and record temperatures, heatwaves hit parts of South America, eastern Australia and southwest Asia, and wildfires raged in Chile, Portugal, and the US.

WMO secretary-general, Petteri Taalas, said: “The past three years have all been in the top three years in terms of temperature records. This is part of a long-term warming trend. We have witnessed extraordinary weather, including temperatures topping 50C (122F) in Asia; record-breaking hurricanes in rapid succession in the Caribbean and Atlantic, reaching as far as Ireland; devastating monsoon flooding, affecting many millions of people, and a relentless drought in East Africa.”

“Many of these events — and detailed scientific studies will determine exactly how many — bear the tell-tale sign of climate change, caused by increased greenhouse gas concentrations from human activities.”


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