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2016 Was ‘Warmest Year on Record’ Says World Meteorological Organisation

Picture of Alex Jordan
Travel Editor
Updated: 24 March 2017
Last year was the ‘warmest on record’ and 2017 is on course to see global temperatures reach new highs, according to the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO). In its State of the Global Climate 2016 report, the WMO confirmed that global average temperatures ‘reached 1.1 °C (40.0 F) above the pre-industrial period’, 0.06 °C (32.0 F) higher than 2015’s record.

According to climate change experts at WMO each of the 16 years since 2001 has been at least 0.4 °C (32.7 F) higher than the long-term average for the 1961–1990 base period. Long-term climate change, coupled with a strong 2015/2016 El Niño event ‘boosted warming in 2016’ according to the report’s authors.

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At least three times so far this winter, the Arctic witnessed the polar equivalent of a heatwave, with powerful Atlantic storms like Hurricane Matthew driving an influx of warm, moist air. This meant that at the height of the Arctic winter and the sea ice refreezing period, there were days where temperatures were close to melting point which has resulted in the Antarctic sea ice being at a record low.

Melting sea ice is leading to a shift in wider oceanic and atmospheric circulation patterns and can be blamed for the extreme weather experienced in Canada and much of the USA, where 11,743 warm temperature records were matched or broken in February, even if New York has recently experienced some of its worst weather for years.

Pine Island Glacier
Pine Island Glacier | ©  NASA Earth Observatory image by Jesse Allen

‘With levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere consistently breaking new records, the influence of human activities on the climate system is becoming more and more evident,’ said WMO Secretary General Petteri Taalas. The findings will be reported to UN member states and climate experts at the Climate Change and Sustainable Development Agenda event, hosted by the President of the UN General Assembly Peter Thomson, in New York on March 23 (also the date for the World Meteorological Day).

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‘The entry into force of the Paris Agreement under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) on 4 November 2016 represents a historic landmark,’ said Taalas. ‘It is vital that its implementation becomes a reality and that the agreement guides the global community in addressing climate change by curbing greenhouse gases, fostering climate resilience and mainstreaming climate adaptation into national development policies.’

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