This first ten months of this year are in line with 2012 ranking in the top nine hottest years on record, since such data began being recorded 160 years ago, but that planetary warming, which effectively stalled around 1998, has yet to resume at the levels seen in the 1980s and early 1990s, according to information reported Wednesday, Nov. 28 at the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Doha, Qatar, taking place this week and next. Although the final analysis on 2012 will not be completed until March next year, meteorologists are not predicting any events which would significantly alter the course of the data collected this year to date.
“Climate change is taking place before our eyes and will continue to do so as a result of concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, which have risen constantly and again reached new records,”
said Michel Jarraud delivering a provisional assessment intended to inform policy makers and other key individuals attending the Doha conference. Jarraud is head of the World Meteorological Organization at the United Nations
“It confirms the trend towards a warmer planet,”
“The extent of Arctic sea ice reached a new record low. The alarming rate of its melt this year highlighted the far-reaching changes taking place on Earth’s oceans and biosphere,” Jarraud added.
The sea ice melting has occurred at a much more rapid rate than in previous years, including 2011 and has outpaced the predictions of climate experts from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change or IPCC, Jarraud said.
The level of sea ice by September was the lowest ever recorded since satellite monitoring began. We have already lost nearly half of the Arctic sea ice, an area which is nearly equivalent in size to India, reported the IPCC.
“The trend is not only continuing but accelerating,” he said. “The more it melts, the faster it will melt.”
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The ice will reform during the winter months, but it will be thinner than before and more vulnerable to further melting, Mr. Jarraud warned.
“The ice melt will contribute to rising sea levels that are already 20 centimeters, or nearly 8 inches, higher than a century ago”, Mr. Jarraud said, posing added risks in the event of extreme weather.
“Hurricane Sandy would have had less impact on New York if it had occurred 100 years ago when sea levels were lower”, he said.
After a cooler than usual start to 2012, average temperatures from January to October were 0.45 degrees Celsius, or 0.81 degrees Fahrenheit, above the average from 1961 to 1990, according to the data collected by the World Meteorological Organization.
Dr Peter Stott, head of Climate Monitoring and Attribution at the Met Office, said:
“We are investigating why the temperature rise at the surface has slowed in recent years, including how ocean heat content changes and the effects of aerosols from atmospheric pollution may have influenced global climate.”
Natural cooling events such as the La Nina weather patterns “do not alter the underlying long-term trend of rising temperatures due to climate change as a result of human activities,” Jarraud said.
Whilst the experts are not certain why temperatures have remained essentially flat over the past 14 years, it is likely that it is just a statistical anomaly, to be expected when attempting to measure with extreme precision, a data source as vast and ‘noisy’ as global temperatures over such a long period of time. Temperatures around the world do naturally fluctuate by tens of degrees every day.
A rise of only one degree Celsius was sufficient to increase the frequency of extreme weather events, he added.
Although people around the globe are suffering through the consequences of extreme weather events the likes of hurricane Sandy, heat waves and droughts, research published earlier in the year from the interpretation of tree growth rings, indicated that temperatures were actually hotter in Roman times than they are today. A general cooling trend has been occurring over most of the last 2000 years, as a result of solar insolation changes, equating to 0.6 degrees Celsius over the two millenia.
The planet, however, has warmed by 0.5 degrees Celsius in the last 60 years, representing a much sharper change over a very short period of time. This change is coincident with runaway human population growth and the burgeoning industrialisation of nations and the rampant consumerism which typifies our present society.
The paper, published in the science journal Nature, posited that the cooling effect of orbital shifting on the climate has been up to four times as powerful as anthropogenic (human-caused) warming pressures, which have been calculated as being an additional 1.6 Watts per m−2 nett since 1750.
The above-average temperatures experienced in 2012 had been marked by record temperatures in areas like Greenland, Siberia and central China, the World Meteorological Organization reported.
Much of the United States, together with parts of Europe, western Russia and southern China, had suffered severe drought, while parts of West and sub-Saharan Africa had experienced severe flooding.
Meteorologists have stated that no major weather event was the result of a single cause, but research into climate change was establishing clear links, Jarraud said, citing the results of scientific research into the extreme heat wave which hit Russia in 2010.
“Without climate change, this episode would have been very unlikely,” he said.
The WMO figures are produced by averaging those from the three main climate databases: those of NASA, the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the British database compiled jointly by the Meteorological Office and the University of East Anglia.
Esper, Jan. (2012-7-8) Orbital forcing of tree-ring data. Nature Climate Change, 38(12), 61-866. DOI: 10.1038/nclimate1589
IPCC Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis (editors Solomon, S., et al) Cambridge University Press