According to the United Nations weather agency, 2016 is set to be the hottest year on record with global temperatures of approximately 1.2° Celsius above pre-industrial levels, in part because of the powerful El Niño weather pattern that began late last year.
The continued trend means that 16 of the 17 hottest years on record will have been during this century (1998 is the outlier). Temperatures are not the only record-breaking indicators of climate change. Concentrations of major greenhouse gases in the atmosphere continue to increase to new limits and Arctic sea ice remains at very low levels – particularly at the beginning of this year and in October as the re-freezing period begins. This year also saw significant and unusually early melting of the Greenland ice sheet.
In a press release, World Meteorological Organization (WMO) Secretary-General Petteri Taalas warned that despite the extra heat due to El Niño no longer having an impact, global warming would continue.
According to Mr. Taalas, temperatures in parts of Arctic Russia were as much as 6° to 7°C above long-term averages; other Arctic and sub-Arctic regions throughout Russia, Alaska and northwest Canada were at least 3° above average.
“We are used to measuring temperature records in fractions of a degree,” he said.
WMO’s findings show that temperature increases are most pronounced in the northern hemisphere; more than 90 per cent of land areas in the northern part of the globe had temperatures of more than 1°C above average, although much of southern Africa and several other regions throughout the southern hemisphere saw the same trend.
Ocean temperatures were also above normal, which has contributed to significant coral bleaching and disruption of ecosystems, including in the Great Barrier Reef, which has seen up to 50 per cent of its coral die in certain parts. Temperatures were below-normal in the southern oceans, particularly around the Drake Passage between South America and Antarctica.