2014 is on track to be the planet’s warmest year since records began in the late 1800s, according to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). In a special report released today, aimed to inform the ongoing climate change negotiations in Lima, Peru, the WMO stressed that climate warming is clear and present.
“The provisional information for 2014 means that fourteen of the fifteen warmest years on record have all occurred in the 21st century,” said WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud. “There is no standstill in global warming.”
November and December need only “maintain the same tendency” as previous months for 2014 to surpass 2010, 2005 and 1998, the three warmest years on record, to date, the WMO said.
Record-setting ocean surface temperatures have fueled the global warmth. In November, NOAA reported ocean temperatures between May and October were the warmest on record by a wide margin. NOAA also noted that five of the those six months (July being the exception) were the warmest on record for the Earth overall, land and ocean combined.
“What we saw in 2014 is consistent with what we expect from a changing climate,” Jarraud said. “What is particularly unusual and alarming this year are the high temperatures of vast areas of the ocean surface, including in the northern hemisphere.”
The destined-to-be record warm year coincides with new highs in the levels of heat-trapping greenhouse gases. In September, the WMO reported that atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide experienced its biggest year-to-year jump on record in 2013, rising 2.9 parts per million.
“Record-high greenhouse gas emissions and associated atmospheric concentrations are committing the planet to a much more uncertain and inhospitable future,” Jarraud said.
2014 may achieve record-warmth even without the official onset of an El Nino event, a warming of the equatorial Pacific ocean waters that injects heat into the atmosphere. However, El Nino has been on the brink of development since the summer and has likely given ocean and air temperatures an assist, even if not as pronounced as in 1998 and 2010, two of the other 3 warmest years on records
The WMO qualified its announcement that 2014 would be the warmest by noting “differences in the rankings of the warmest years are a matter of only a few hundredths of a degree, and that different data sets show slightly different rankings.”
In addition to documenting the global warmth, the WMO report highlighted weather extremes that have occurred around the world in 2014. In particular, it said, flooding has been prevalent around the world, including devastating events in the Balkans, Russia, and parts of South America during the first half of the year.
“Record-breaking heat combined with torrential rainfall and floods destroyed livelihoods and ruined lives,” Jarraud said.