News / Science & Technology

2013 - Sixth Warmest Year on Record

FILE - World Meteorological Organization (WMO) Secretary-General Michel Jarraud (r).
FILE - World Meteorological Organization (WMO) Secretary-General Michel Jarraud (r).
Lisa Schlein
The World Meteorological Organization reports 2013 was the sixth warmest year on record, confirming the long-term global warming is continuing. In its annual report on the Status of the Climate, WMO describes a pattern of extreme weather events across the planet.  

The World Meteorological Organization finds 13 of the 14 warmest years on record have occurred in the 21st Century. And it says each of the last three decades has been warmer than the previous one, with 2001 to 2010 being the warmest decade on record.

WMO Secretary-General, Michel Jarraud said it is important to look beyond individual years in order to assess the global warming trend. He said within this trend, there is significant variability in weather patterns. He added, though, 2013 definitely confirms a continuation of this trend.

“Since 2001, the first year of this Century, the coldest year that we have observed since 2001 is actually warmer than any year before 1998. I do not think this can be used in seeing a contradiction of the stop in climate change. Climate change is not stopping," said Jarraud.

Jarraud said the fact that parts of the United States and Canada were hit by very cold weather does not belie climate change because many other places in the planet were hit with significantly warmer weather than usual.

The WMO climate report highlights details of ice cover, ocean warming, sea level rise and greenhouse gas concentrations. It says all these events are inter-related and indicate that climate is changing.

It notes significant parts of the Asian continent saw more rain than usual last year.  And, it says the United Kingdom recorded the wettest winter in more than 250 years.  It says Typhoon Haiyan, one of the strongest storms to ever make landfall, devastated parts of the Central Philippines.

The report says severe drought hit the Western part of the U.S. state of California, as well as the Sahel in Africa and the southern African countries of Namibia, Botswana, and Angola.  It says drought was linked to a record heat wave in Australia, which meteorologists confirm was due in large part to human activity.  

WMO’s Jarraud says phenomena such as heavier precipitation, more intense heat and more damage from storm surges and coastal flooding are consistent with what one would expect as a result of human-induced climate change.  

He says the state of the Arctic ice also is a concern.

“What is worrying is that an increasing fraction of this ice is recent new ice.  This ice is normkally very thin and therefore more vulnerable to the variability and the change in the climate.  So, this is the fact that the ice surface is a little bit more than the previous year is actually not in contradiction with the global warming.  Actually the volume continues to decrease.  So, we are very much concerned about the evolution of the Arctic ice," he said.

Jarraud says there is a strong possibility of an El Nino developing near the end of this year.  El Nino is a complex interaction between the atmosphere and the ocean.  If El Nino is confirmed, Jarraud says the world can expect a warmer year.

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