Eight hottest years on record point to rising climate change impacts
Sea level rise is accelerating, melting of European glaciers is breaking records, extreme weather is wreaking havoc
Sharm-el-Sheikh, Egypt, 6 November (WMO) – The past eight years are on track to be the eight hottest on record, fueled by ever-increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases and accumulated heat. Extreme heat waves, drought and devastating floods have affected millions of people and cost billions this year, according to the World Meteorological Organization’s interim report on the state of the global climate in 2022.
Global average temperatureThe telltale signs and impacts of climate change are becoming increasingly dramatic. The rate of sea level rise has doubled since 1993. It has increased by almost 10 mm since January 2020 to reach a new record this year. The last two and a half years alone account for 10% of global sea level rise since satellite measurements began nearly 30 years ago.
2022 has taken an unusually heavy toll on glaciers across the European Alps, with the first indications of a record melt. The Greenland Ice Sheet lost mass for the 26th consecutive year and it rained (rather than snowed) for the first time in September.
The global average temperature in 2022 is currently estimated at around 1.15 [1.02 to 1.28] °C above the pre-industrial average of 1850-1900. A rare La Niña triple dip cooling means 2022 is likely to be “only” the fifth or sixth warmest. However, this does not reverse the long-term trend; it’s only a matter of time before there’s another hottest year on record.
Indeed, the warming continues. The 10-year average for the period 2013-2022 is estimated at 1.14 [1.02 to 1.27] °C above the pre-industrial baseline 1850-1900. This compares to 1.09°C from 2011 to 2020, according to estimates from the Sixth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
Ocean heat reached record levels in 2021 (the last year assessed), with a particularly high rate of warming over the past 20 years.
“The greater the warming, the more severe the impacts. We now have carbon dioxide levels so high in the atmosphere that the 1.5°C cut of the Paris Agreement is barely within reach,” said WMO Secretary General, the Professor Petteri Taalas.
“It is already too late for many glaciers and the melting will continue for hundreds or even thousands of years, with major implications for water security. The rate of sea level rise has doubled over the past 30 years. Although we still measure this in terms of millimeters per year, this amounts to half a meter to one meter per century and is a major and long-term threat to several million coastal inhabitants and low-lying states” , did he declare.
“Too often it is those least responsible for climate change who suffer the most, as we have seen with the terrible floods in Pakistan and the deadly and prolonged drought in the Horn of Africa. But even well-prepared societies this year have been ravaged by extremes – as evidenced by prolonged heat waves and drought across large parts of Europe and southern China,” Professor Taalas said.
“Increasingly extreme weather conditions make it more important than ever to ensure that everyone on Earth has access to vital early warnings.”
WMO released the interim State of the Global Climate Report and an accompanying interactive story map on the eve of the UN climate negotiations in Sharm-el-Sheikh, COP27. UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres will unveil an action plan at COP27 to achieve early warnings for all over the next five years. Currently, half of the countries in the world do not have it. Mr. Guterres asked WMO to lead the initiative.
The WMO report on the state of the global climate is produced annually. It provides an authoritative voice on the current state of the climate using key climate indicators and reporting on extreme events and their impacts. The temperature figures used in the 2022 interim report are up to the end of September. The final version will be published next April.
Concentrations of principals greenhouse gas – carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide – again reached record levels in 2021. The annual increase in methane concentration was the highest on record. Data from major monitoring stations show that atmospheric levels of all three gases continue to rise in 2022.
Temperature: The global average temperature in 2022 is estimated to be around 1.15 [1.02 to 1.28] °C above average 1850-1900. The years 2015 to 2022 will likely be the eight hottest years on record. La Niña conditions have dominated since late 2020 and are expected to continue through late 2022. The continuation of La Niña has kept global temperatures relatively “low” for the past two years – albeit warmer than the last Significant La Niña in 2011.
Glaciers and ice: In the European Alps, glacier melting records were broken in 2022. Average thickness losses of between 3 and more than 4 meters were measured in all the Alps, much more than in the previous record year 2003 .
In Switzerland, 6% of glacier ice volume was lost between 2021 and 2022, according to initial measurements. For the first time in history, no snow survived the summer season even at the highest measurement sites, and therefore no fresh ice accumulation occurred. Between 2001 and 2022, the volume of glacier ice in Switzerland fell from 77 km3 to 49 km3, a drop of more than a third.
A light snowpack at the end of winter and repeated coverings of Saharan dust pave the way for an unprecedented loss of ice between May and early September under the effect of long and intense heat waves.
Global Mean Sea Level increased by about 3.4 ± 0.3 mm per year during the 30 years (1993-2022) of the satellite altimetric record. The rate doubled between 1993-2002 and 2013-2022 and sea level rose by about 5 mm between January 2021 and August 2022. The acceleration is due to increased ice melt.
Ocean Heat: The ocean stores about 90% of the heat accumulated by human emissions of greenhouse gases. The upper 2,000m of the ocean continued to warm to record levels in 2021 (the latest year for which figures are available). Warming rates have been particularly high over the past two decades. It is expected to continue to warm in the future – a change that is irreversible on centuries to millennia time scales.
Overall, 55% of the ocean surface experienced at least one marine heat wave in 2022. In contrast, only 22% of the ocean surface experienced a marine cold wave. Sea heat waves are more and more frequent, unlike cold snaps.
Extent of arctic sea ice was below the long-term average (1981-2010) for most of the year. The September extent was 4.87 million km2, or 1.54 million km2 below the long-term average extent. Antarctic sea ice extent fell to 1.92 million km2 on February 25, the lowest level on record and nearly a million km2 below the long-term average.
Extreme weather conditions: In East Africa, rainfall has been below average for four consecutive wet seasons, the longest in 40 years, with indications that the current season could also be dry. Due to persistent drought and other aggravating factors, an estimated 18.4 to 19.3 million people faced a food ‘crisis’ or more severe levels of acute food insecurity by June 2022. Aid agencies are warning that another below-average season will likely lead to crop losses. failure and further exacerbate food insecurity situations in Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia.
Record rains in July and August caused major flooding in Pakistan. There were at least 1,700 deaths and 33 million people affected. 7.9 million people have been displaced. The floods followed an extreme heat wave in March and April in India and Pakistan.
The Southern Africa region was rocked by a two-month series of cyclones earlier this year, hitting Madagascar the hardest with torrential rains and devastating floods. Hurricane Ian caused extensive damage and death in Cuba and southwest Florida in September.
Large parts of the Northern Hemisphere were exceptionally hot and dry. China has experienced the widest and longest heat wave since national records began and the second driest summer on record. The Yangtze River in Wuhan hit its lowest level on record in August.
Large parts of Europe swelter in repeated bouts of extreme heat. The UK set a new national record on July 19, when the temperature exceeded 40°C for the first time. This was accompanied by a persistent and damaging drought and wildfires. European rivers, including the Rhine, Loire and Danube, have fallen to extremely low levels.
Notes for Editors
The information used in this report comes from a large number of National Meteorological and Hydrological Services (NMHSs) and associated institutions, as well as partners from the United Nations, the EU Copernicus Climate Change Service and Climate Centers regional.
For the global average temperature, a baseline of 1850-1900 is used. This is the benchmark used in recent IPCC reports to replace pre-industrial temperatures and is relevant to understanding progress against the Paris Agreement targets.
WMO uses six international temperature datasets HadCRUT.22.214.171.124 (UK Met Office), NOAAGlobalTemp v5 (USA), NASA GISTEMP v4 (USA), Berkeley Earth (USA), ERA5 (ECMWF), JRA-55 (Japan).
The World Meteorological Organization is the authoritative voice of the United Nations system on weather, climate and water
For more information, contact: Clare Nullis, WMO Press Officer, [email protected] Tel 41-79-7091397