13 of the 14 warmest years on record occurred this century, according to the UN.
Publishing its annual climate report, the UN’s World Meteorological Organisation said that last year continued a long-term warming trend, with the hottest year ever in Australia and floods, droughts and extreme weather elsewhere around the world.
Michel Jarraud, the WMO’s secretary-general, also said there had been no ‘pause’ in global warming, as has been alleged by climate change sceptics. “There is no standstill in global warming,” Jarraud said.
2001-2010 was the warmest decade on record, the WMO noted, and added that the last three decades had been warmer than the previous one.
The WMO reiterated its earlier finding that 2013 was the sixth warmest on record, with temperatures 0.5C above the long-term average (1961-1990). The southern hemisphere was particularly warm, its report said, with Argentina experiencing its second warmest year on record and New Zealand its third warmest.
Arctic sea ice in 2013 did not reach the record lows seen in 2012 for minimum extent in the summer, but was at the sixth lowest on record. The WMO noted all seven of the lowest Arctic sea-ice extents took place in the past seven years, starting with 2007, which scientists were “stunned” by at the time.
“Many of the extreme events of 2013 were consistent with what we would expect as a result of human-induced climate change. We saw heavier precipitation, more intense heat, and more damage from storm surges and coastal flooding as a result of sea level rise – as typhoon Haiyan so tragically demonstrated in the Philippines,” said Jarraud.
Prof Sir Brian Hoskins, director of the Grantham Institute for Climate Change at Imperial College London, said: “2013 with its mixture of record warmth and extreme weather shows a now familiar mixture of natural variability and greenhouse gas induced climate change. These annual statements document a striking long term trend, and one thing is clear: that our continuing greenhouse gas emissions are a crucial driving force in the changing climate.”
Next week the UN’s climate science panel, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, will publish the second part in its landmark fifth report on climate change. The report is expected to warn that food yields will suffer from future heatwaves, and the natural world will suffer severe impacts if temperatures continue to rise.
Children walk near the Folsom Lake, California, US, which is experiencing a historic drought. The lake’s edge has receded dramatically. Photograph: Rich Pedroncelli/AP
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