Preliminary data shows that 2016 looks set to be the warmest year on record globally.
While there are still a couple of months to go this year, a preliminary analysis of the first nine months indicates that 2016 is very much on track to surpass the 2015 level, which in turn broke the previous high mark set in 2014. Temperatures from January to September were 1.2oC above pre-industrial levels, according to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).
In parts of Arctic Russia, temperatures were 6oC to 7oC above the long-term average. Many other Arctic and sub-Arctic regions in Russia, Alaska and north-west Canada were at least 3oC above the average.
Other long-term climate change indicators are also breaking records; the amount of greenhouse gas in the atmosphere continued to rise in 2016, Arctic sea ice continued to melt in significant amounts and the Greenland ice sheet displayed very early signs of melting this year.
Experts believe that the El Nino weather phenomenon played a role in the record warm temperatures seen in 2015 and 2016. They quantify it as roughly 0.2 of a degree – but the bulk of the warming is coming from the accumulation of greenhouse gases. The impacts of that warming are being widely felt.
“One degree may sound a relatively small number but in the context of such a stable climate that we’ve had over the past millennia, and the rapidity of that warming, we are seeing this real world evidence that doesn’t come from a model or a projection” said Petteri Taalas of the WMO.
According to the WMO analysis, 16 of the 17 warmest years have been recorded this century. The only exception was 1998.