World Meteorological Org: Human Induced Climate Change raising temperatures and causing extreme weather events around the world

On Monday, the UN’s World Meteorological Organization posted it’s yearly report on the climate:  WMO statement on the status of the global climate in 2013.  The report doesn’t mince words, it clearly says that human-induced climate change is causing higher global temperatures and more extreme weather events.

The climate changes shown on the charts that follow correspond with the rise of fossil fuel consumption – transportation (cars, trucks, trains, airplanes, etc) and electricity/heating/etc.

The modernization of human society began in earnest following World War II.  Modern America, having won WWII, used this moment of glory to embark on a pattern of destroying mass transit systems, erasing walk-able lifestyles from America, replacing it with a dependence on the automobile.  Additionally, America started living a lifestyle of flagrant energy use in all sectors – for example, the current fad is to support outdoors dining at restaurants with outdoors heaters.  It’s the height of flagrancy to unnecessarily heat the outdoors.

In any case, I want to go over some high points in the report.  The press release has some interesting things to say as well.

“Naturally occurring phenomena such as volcanic eruptions or El Niño and La Niña events have always contributed to frame our climate, influenced temperatures or caused disasters like droughts and floods. But 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 WMO Secretary-General, Mr Michel Jarraud.

“There is no standstill in global warming,” said Mr Jarraud. The warming of our oceans has accelerated, and at lower depths. More than 90 percent of the excess energy trapped by greenhouse gases is stored in the oceans. Levels of these greenhouse gases are at record levels, meaning that our atmosphere and oceans will continue to warm for centuries to come. The laws of physics are non-negotiable.”

“Weather forecasting, including of storms and other hazards, has become much more skilful in recent years. As demonstrated in October by Cyclone Phailin, the second strongest tropical cyclone to strike India since modern records began, improved forecasting, combined with government action to build national resilience and provide shelters, greatly reduces the loss of life. We must continue strengthening preparedness and early warning systems and implementing a multi-hazard approach to disaster risk reduction,” he said.

This is temperatures around the world in 2013 compared to a baseline average of temperatures from 1961-1990.  Most of the planet was much hotter than the baseline average, with a few exceptions.
The report says that in the northern hemisphere temperatures were influenced by the Arctic Oscilation.  This produced cooler-than-average temperatures in some places, but the Arctic was warmer than average.  As we’ll see later the Arctic sea ice minimum was smaller than average, in 2013.
This is the global average average temperature, again compared to the 1961-1990 baseline.  What we see here is beginning in the 1960’s global temperatures started shooting up.
The way I see this, it correlates with the rise in fossil fuel consumption around the world.
This chart ranks the years on which were the hottest.  Notice the hottest few were all in the 2000’s, except for 1998.  Also notice the ranking from hottest to coolest roughly corresponds to the decade; the color coding is by decade, and you can see how the decades from 1850-1950 are over on the right (coolest), while the decades from 1971-present are on the left (hottest)
The press release had this to say:

Thirteen of the fourteen warmest years on record have all occurred in the 21st century, and each of the last three decades has been warmer than the previous one, culminating with 2001-2010 as the warmest decade on record. The average global land and ocean surface temperature in 2013 was 14.5°C (58.1°F) – 0.50°C (0.90°F) above the 1961–1990 average and 0.03°C (0.05°F) higher than the 2001–2010 decadal average. Temperatures in many parts of the southern hemisphere were especially warm, with Australia having its hottest year on record and Argentina its second hottest.

Some of the naysayers try to say the warming is just because of El Nino or whatnot.  This chart is showing the warming, including markers telling us which are El Nino (red) or La Nina (blue) years, with the grey years being neither.  What I see in the chart is that El Nino years tend to be warmer than the surrounding years, that La Nina years are cooler, but that the overall trend is to hotter temperatures.
This chart shows precipitation (rain or snow) around the world compared to a baseline average covering 1951-2000.  This shows a number of areas which are much dryer than normal, and a few that are much wetter than normal.  Living in California, I can attest to how conditions here have been dry (too dry) for several years now.
This shows arctic sea ice coverage compared to 2012 and to an average running from 1981-2010.  The chart shows the arctic coverage was smaller in 2013 than the average, but not as much smaller as it was in 2012.
This was the sixth smallest arctic sea ice coverage since satellite records began in 1979.
Another measure mentioned in the report was the extent of thin ice covering the arctic.  Ice that is only one year old is thinner than other arctic ice, and is the most susceptible to melting.  During 2013, ice that is four years old or older decreased from 18% of the ice cover in March 1984 to 2% of the ice cover in March 2012.  The percentage of older ice increased slightly to 3% in March 2013.   in 2013 In March 1984, 56 per cent of the ice pack was composed of first-year ice, while in March 2013 first-year ice comprised 78 per cent of total ice cover at its peak.
The report doesn’t have a chart for ocean acidification, but it does have an alarming thing to say.  The oceans are absorbing carbon from the atmosphere, giving us some mitigation of rising levels of carbon pollution in the atmosphere.  But it means the oceans are becoming more acidic because the absorbed carbon forms carbonic acid.  Ocean acidification is harming sea creatures, as I discussed in an earlier blog post.
What the report does show is sea level rise at different places.  Recall that sea level rise is uneven around the planet.  Measurements began in 1993 and show sea level is rising by 2.9-3.2 millimeters per year.  The sea level rise shown near the Philippines contributed to devastation from Typhoon Haiyan.
Here’s another view at drought conditions that are existing across North America.  Drought conditions actually improved during 2013, down to 31% of the country at the end of the year from 61% at the beginning of the year.
California had its driest year in 2013 since records began in 1895.  As a California resident the whole time, it sure didn’t rain during 2013, and the Winter of 2013-14 was also extremely dry.  The report says San Francisco received only 16% of its average rainfall since local records began in 1947.
Here’s a map of the devastating heat waves that have roasted Australia the last couple years.  Australia in 2013 suffered its hottest year since national records began in 1910, at 1.2 degrees C above average, and .17C above the previous record set in 2005.  Several places had their hottest-ever recorded temperature, such as 49.6 degrees C at Moomba, South Australia.
New Zealand also had its hottest winter, and 3rd hottest year overall since their records began in 1909.
This chart shows changes in greenhouse gas content in the atmosphere from 1984 to 2012.  The top row is the count – parts per million, while the second row is the rate of change per year.  The first column shows CO2 concentration, the second shows Methane, and the last shows N2O concentration.
Basically, the concentration of each is climbing pretty rapidly.  We passed the 350 parts per million threshold of CO2 a long time ago.
The report closes out with a list of extreme weather events during 2013

Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda), one of the strongest storms to ever make landfall, devastated parts of the central Philippines
Surface air temperatures over land in the southern hemisphere were very warm, resulting in widespread heatwaves; Australia saw record warmth for the year, Argentina its second warmest year and New Zealand its third warmest
Frigid polar air swept across parts of Europe and the south-eastern United States
Severe drought gripped Angola, Botswana and Namibia
Heavy monsoon rains led to severe floods on the India-Nepal border
Abundant rains and flooding impacted north-eastern China and eastern Russian Federation
Heavy rains and floods affected Sudan and Somalia
Major drought affected southern China
North-eastern Brazil experienced its worst drought in the past 50 years
The widest tornado ever observed hit El Reno, Oklahoma in the United States
Extreme precipitation led to severe floods in the Alps and in Austria, the Czech Republic, Germany, Poland and Switzerland
Israel, Jordan and the Syrian Arab Republic were struck by unprecedented snowfall
An extra-tropical windstorm affected several countries in western and northern Europe
Greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere reached record highs
The global oceans reached new record high sea levels
The Antarctic sea-ice extent reached a record daily maximum

About David Herron

David Herron is a writer and software engineer living in Silicon Valley. He primarily writes about electric vehicles, clean energy systems, climate change, peak oil and related issues. When not writing he indulges in software projects and is sometimes employed as a software engineer. David has written for sites like PlugInCars and TorqueNews, and worked for companies like Sun Microsystems and Yahoo.
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About David Herron

David Herron is a writer and software engineer living in Silicon Valley. He primarily writes about electric vehicles, clean energy systems, climate change, peak oil and related issues. When not writing he indulges in software projects and is sometimes employed as a software engineer. David has written for sites like PlugInCars and TorqueNews, and worked for companies like Sun Microsystems and Yahoo.

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