By John Kerr 07/11/2017 16


This year will be the third hottest year on record, according to a new report released to coincide with a major climate summit in Germany.

World Meteorological Organization’s provisional Statement on the State of the Climate reveals that the mean global temperature for the period January to September 2017 was approximately 1.1°C above the pre-industrial era.  As a result of a powerful El Niño, 2016 is likely to remain the warmest year on record, with 2017 and 2015 being second and/or third. 2013-2017 is set to be the warmest five-year period on record.

 

 

“The past three years have all been in the top three years in terms of temperature records. This is part of a long-term warming trend,” said WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas. “We have witnessed extraordinary weather, including temperatures topping 50 degrees Celsius in Asia, record-breaking hurricanes in rapid succession in the Caribbean and Atlantic reaching as far as Ireland, devastating monsoon flooding affecting many millions of people and a relentless drought in East Africa.

“Many of these events – and detailed scientific studies will determine exactly how many – bear the tell-tale sign of climate change caused by increased greenhouse gas concentrations from human activities,” he said.

Read more about the report on Scimex.org

Bonn climate conference
Credit: Flickr / Connect4Climate

The preliminary report was released on the first day of the COP23 international climate summit held in Bonn, Germany. A key focus of the meeting will be a review of climate commitments made at the Paris 2015 climate conference and a push for countries to ‘ratchet up’ their efforts to lower greenhouse gas emissions.

Patricia Espinosa, Executive Secretary of UN Climate Change which is hosting the Bonn conference, said of the WMO report: “These findings underline the rising risks to people, economies and the very fabric of life on Earth if we fail to get on track with the aims and ambitions of the Paris Agreement”.

“There is unprecedented and very welcome momentum among governments, but also cities, states, territories, regions, business and civil society. Bonn 2017 needs to be the launch pad towards the next, higher level of ambition by all nations and all sectors of society as we look to de-risk the future and maximize the opportunities from a fresh, forward-looking and sustainable development path.“

world meteorological organization
Infographic summarising the impacts covered in the new WMO report.

NZ Climate experts respond

The Science Media Centre collected expert commentary from New Zealand climate researchers.

Dr Jim Salinger, Honorary Research Fellow, University of Otago comments:

“Huge storms in July brought Oamaru’s wettest day on record (174 mm), the second wettest day to Winchmore (151 mm) and Dunedin’s wettest July day on record (94 mm). Dunedin City has now had two extreme events because of climate change within the last two years where flooding has occurred in South Dunedin. Floods and inundation because of sea level rise is going to increase in coming years. Otago Regional Council shows almost 3000 homes in the suburb of South Dunedin are just 50cm above sea level – which makes this area at most risk in New Zealand.

“And the ‘Long white cloud’ cloaking the Southern Alps continues to shrink. The latest ice volume calculations using NIWA’s end of summer snowline surveys, published in June, show a further decline by March 2016 to a mere 32 cubic kilometres, 60 percent lower than in 1977, and probably a meagre 20 percent of those estimated in the 1890s!

“Dave Cull head of Local Government New Zealand (LGNZ) is quite correct in pushing for action by central government, given the diverse state of individual responses by district, city and regional councils to flooding. This, and efforts to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, will be one of the first tasks that the new parliament will need to address urgently so we can adapt and reduce the impacts of climate change. They will be busy!”

Professor James Renwick, School of Geography, Environment and Earth Sciences, Victoria University of Wellington, comments:

“Recently, the rate of change of warming globally has been really remarkable. We now appear to be well and truly through the 1 degree of warming (compared to pre-industrial) barrier, heading for 2 degrees. What’s really striking is that this year is coming in as probably the second warmest year on record, after the big El Niño-influenced 2016. The fact that we have such warmth this year without an El Niño, and in fact with a slightly cooling La Niña developing in the Tropical Pacific, tells me that the background warming trend (from greenhouse gas increase) is really becoming apparent.

“The main way we experience climate change is through extreme events, and this year has seen extraordinary extremes around the world. From record floods and fires in North America to record monsoon rains in Bangladesh and India, to heatwaves in many parts of the globe, 2017 has already been exceptional.

“Here in New Zealand, we have seen several major flood events, including Edgecumbe in April and the eastern South Island from Dunedin to Christchurch in July. While the analysis has yet to be done, it is very likely that these events have a climate change ‘fingerprint’, as a warmer atmosphere can hold more moisture, making heavy rain events more frequent. Sea levels continue to rise, and the latest science shows that we may see considerably more than 1 metre this century, with many more metres to come, unless we cap greenhouse gas emissions urgently.

“The Bonn ‘COP23’ meeting is on this week and now is the time for countries to demonstrate action on climate change. To stay below the 2 degree Paris limit, the world economy needs to be carbon-free within 50 years. A huge ask, but the costs of inaction or failure are almost incalculable. Rather than a burden, this is a real opportunity for government and business to lead the way into the green economy.”

United States out in the cold

The United States withdrew from the historic Paris Agreement earlier this year, but the move does not seem to have dampened the sense of urgency at the Bonn conference. As the Guardian reports, it may have even boosted other countries’ commitment to the 2015 pact:

But when President Trump announced the US withdrawal in June – it takes effect in 2020 – the UN’s chief climate negotiator, who delivered the Paris deal, ended up thanking him. “It provoked an unparalleled wave of support for the treaty,” said Christiana Figueres. “He shored up the world’s resolve on climate action, and for that we can all be grateful.”

One COP veteran said: “The mood on the ground is it is going to be OK: the US is not going to be a pain in the arse. They still don’t know what they actually want.” Nazhat Shameem Khan, Fiji’s chief negotiator was even less diplomatic when asked about dealing with the US: “You can have a dialogue [even] with somebody who is an axe murderer.”

Featured image: Stephen Murphy / Flickr


16 Responses to “2017 in top three hottest years on record, with record-breaking extreme weather”

  • Record breaking Hurricanes ? I gather their records don’t go back very far, then. Even Wikipedia doesn’t support them. The Edgecombe floods weren’t very heavy rain – just poor flood management and local authorities that allowed houses to be built on a known flood plain.
    If the examples quoted are evidence of extreme events getting worse, then their evidence isn’t very compelling is it?

    • Chris, you are right that Edgecombe’s flooding wasn’t due to a record-breaking hurricane. The WMO Secretary-General was speaking in a more global context. Here are some of the examples from the report:

      “The North Atlantic had a very active season. The Accumulated Cyclone Energy (ACE) index, a measure of the aggregate intensity and duration of cyclones, had its highest monthly value on record in September.”

      “Harvey made landfall in Texas as a category 4 system and remained near the coast for several days, producing extreme rainfall and flooding. Provisional seven-day rainfall totals reached as high as 1539 mm at a gauge near Nederland, Texas, the largest ever recorded for a single event in the mainland United States.”

      “Irma had winds of 300 km/h for 37 hours – the longest on the satellite record at that intensity and spent three consecutive days as a Category 5 hurricane, also the longest on record.”

  • Maggy Wassilieff,

    I’m not a geologist, but –

    South Dunedin’s problem is exacerbated by being very low lying and having a high water table. If the sea level, and hence ground water level near the sea, were to rise, the problem will get much worse.

    While you can try—in a bit of strained way—to point the finger elsewhere for the present-day floods, it certainly will be a problem that is going to get worse with the sea level rise associated with climate change. (Whatever cause you put to climate change, too!)

    I think it helps to remember that south Dunedin is a reclaimed swamp sitting in basin. If the water table rises, it’ll essentially revert to what it was.

    There are water table studies for South Dunedin looking into this, and media reports on this that can easily be found.

    Much of Christchurch has the similar problems, albeit with different geography. The flat part of the city is founded on a swamp. It’s often pointed out it might have been better to take a bigger shot at moving away from the former streams or submerged streams and low-lying land in general (using the earthquakes as an opportunity looking to the longer-term future).

    One quite large area has been ‘emptied’ of houses, something I have seen relatively little media reporting on. You can see it quite well on Google maps (use satellite view, as that shows the green, unhoused, areas): https://www.google.com/maps/d/u/0/viewer?mid=1H9SOG-2HjPIR8AF8WgznCuFSPWM&hl=en&ll=-43.5069776223139%2C172.68306220635986&z=14

    Christchurch is my hometown; I’ve lived in Dunedin for many years – as a consequence I have some familiarity with the issues in both cities.

      • Maybe it’s just me 🙁 I hope it’s been well covered, but I haven’t seen much myself other than one big story a while back. Perhaps the coverage is not migrating out from ChCh well? To be fair, I’ve been travelling so I will have missed quite a bit, but as my hometown I do try follow stories from there.

  • John
    According to Ryan Maue’s data, the accumulated cyclone energy for the world isn’t anything special (below average) though the north Atlantic is well above the average. http://wx.graphics/tropical/ WMO was cherrypicking. There was the two big cyclones that hit the US shores after a record breaking 12 year drought. Why didn’t the secretary general mention the years without cyclones? And even in the North Atlantic, the ACE is nothing unprecedented – imagine if they had Twitter and satellites in 1933
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1933_Atlantic_hurricane_season

    Grant – I grew up in ChCh and then, there wasn’t houses in the now Red Zone because it was a known swamp. That is another example of poor council management, just like the flooding in Houston was in areas that have flooded for over 100 years. After the ChCh earthquake, didn’t the ground go down about 1/2 a metre and that has caused a lot of the ongoing flooding issues

  • @Maggy

    Thanks, I’m aware of the report. Just while I’m here, a couple of quotes –

    and that future changes in mean sea level, climate and groundwater level are the processes most likely to exacerbate the effects of this hazard.

    Based on the physical characteristics described in this report, it seems likely that future changes in relative sea level and climate will increasingly affect the performance of infrastructure (particularly buried services such as storm and wastewater pipes), and other assets such as roads, houses and other buildings, across the South Dunedin plain. As described in section 4.1, these effects will vary across the plain, with some areas more vulnerable than others.

    It’s also worth remembering that climate change is expected to bring ‘wilder’ episodes of weather, which would include storms.

  • @Chris,

    As a side note (and nothing against anyone writing here!), and admittedly away from the topic of the post (sorry.) I personally wish the area I referred to be called anything but “the” Red Zone as there have been too many different Red Zones already! Avon Loop Green Space, or something.

    • Grant I disagree with you about the naming of the abandoned areas of ChCh. Even the official maps call the Red Zones
      http://www.rebuildchristchurch.co.nz/blog/2016/9/regenerate-christchurch-signals-approach-to-residential-red-zone
      But anyway, the more substantial issue is the Council allowed building in areas with known significant natural hazard risks. Christchurch isn’t alone in this. Remember the flooding in Brisbane because they allowed housing to be built on the river’s flood plain. What is the risk to Papamoa from tsunamis or even just another Bola?
      That is why natural disasters are costing a lot more. The frequency and intensity hasn’t changed, just more damage. Development is happening in areas that are at regular risk from weather and natural events. It happens world wide and climate change is just a figleaf to cover up the ineptitude.

  • Chris,

    Even the official maps call the Red Zones

    Sorry, but that misses the point I was making. (It’s not if it’s “official” or not.)

    It happens world wide and climate change is just a figleaf to cover up the ineptitude.

    Defensive claim (an empty one at that), with a silly potshot added. Other can take it up (not my bailiwick) but around here you’d do better with evidence, not opinions or beliefs.

    Back on topic, you’ll see the article above covers that climate change is associated with extreme events.

    While I’m writing, seems our winters may be getting shorter too: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/nov/10/new-zealands-winter-shorter-by-a-month-over-100-years

  • No Grant – the comments I made were in direct response to those made in the head post by the experts:
    Edgecombe flooding wasn’t extreme (which John agreed with), Dunedin flooding (Maggie’s link shows the worst rainfall was in 1923 and sea level rise has been basically linear since 1900), record breaking hurricanes (which weren’t cf 1933), Ireland hurricane (except the 1961 one was bigger https://www.met.ie/climate-ireland/weather-events/Sep1961_hurricane-Debbie.pdf )
    Even the IPCC AR5 (TS2.7.1) says the extreme events aren’t getting worse.
    I have no quarrel with the fact our winters are getting shorter and it is getting warmer. It has been doing such since the Little Ice Age. The dispute is how much of this is due to human influence and if so, whether its costs will outweigh the benefits?

    • The comment I referred to starts as addressed to me 😉

      Cherry-picking to miss wider points isn’t helpful, but others can take that up.

      Cheers, think I’m done here.

  • I see that WMO in their report list the Port Hills fire as a consequence of climate change. That is just opportunistic cherrypicking to the extreme. It wasn’t even especially dry or hot as a local resident’s weather statistics show.
    http://weather.northcott.co.nz/index.php/yearly-graphs
    The Brisbane floods were blamed on climate change.
    https://www.reuters.com/article/us-climate-australia-floods/scientists-see-climate-change-link-to-australian-floods-idUSTRE70B1XF20110112
    And the council wants to stop further building at Papamoa because of the risk of flooding from sea level rise
    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/bay-of-plenty-times/news/article.cfm?c_id=1503343&objectid=11553017