Wednesday, July 03, 2013

WMO: Global Climate 2001-2010, A Decade of Extremes

Jul 3: A new report by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) indicates that the world experienced "unprecedented high-impact climate extremes" during the 2001-2010 decade, which was the warmest since the start of modern measurements in 1850 and continued an extended period of accelerating global warming. More national temperature records were reported broken than in any previous decade. The report, The Global Climate 2001-2010, A Decade of Extremes, analyzed global and regional temperatures and precipitation, as well as extreme events such as the heat waves in Europe and Russia, Hurricane Katrina in the United States of America, Tropical Cyclone Nargis in Myanmar, droughts in the Amazon Basin, Australia and East Africa and floods in Pakistan.

    According to a release, the decade was the warmest for both hemispheres and for both land and ocean surface temperatures. The record warmth was accompanied by a rapid decline in Arctic sea ice, and accelerating loss of net mass from the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets and from the world's glaciers. As a result of this widespread melting and the thermal expansion of sea water, global mean sea levels rose about 3 millimetres (mm) per year, about double the observed 20th century trend of 1.6 mm per year. Global sea level averaged over the decade was about 20 cm higher than that of 1880, according to the report. The WMO report charted rising atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases. Global-average concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere rose to 389 parts per million in 2010 (an increase of 39% since the start of the industrial era in 1750), methane to 1 808.0 parts per billion (158%) and nitrous oxide to 323.2 parts per billion (20%).

    WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud said, "A decade is the minimum possible timeframe for meaningful assessments of climate change. WMO's report shows that global warming accelerated in the four decades of 1971 to 2010 and that the decadal rate of increase between 1991-2000 and 2001-2010 was unprecedented. Rising concentrations of heat-trapping greenhouse gases are changing our climate, with far reaching implications for our environment and our oceans, which are absorbing both carbon dioxide and heat. Natural climate variability, caused in part by interactions between our atmosphere and oceans -- as evidenced by El Niño and La Niña events -- means that some years are cooler than others. On an annual basis, the global temperature curve is not a smooth one. On a long-term basis the underlying trend is clearly in an upward direction, more so in recent times."

    The 100-page report and an executive summary, incorporating findings from a unique survey of 139 National Meteorological and Hydrological Services and socio-economic data and analysis from several UN agencies and partners, were released to coincide with the first session of the Intergovernmental Board on Climate Services. This Board is overseeing the implementation of the Global Framework for Climate Services -- an international initiative to improve and expand scientifically-based climate information to help society cope with the natural variability of our climate and human induced climate change.

    Jarraud said, "A decadal perspective makes it possible to assess trends in the climate system and anticipate the future. It can also inform efforts to develop operational climate services that provide information and forecasts for decision-making in agriculture, health, disaster risk, water resources and other sectors. These efforts are being coordinated through the WMO-led Global Framework for Climate Services. Climate services are more necessary than ever to help us cope with global changes in our climate, which are accentuated at regional and national scales. Despite the significant decrease in casualties due to severe storms and flooding, the WMO report highlighted an alarming impact on health and mortality rates caused by the European and Russian heat-waves. Given that climate change is expected to lead to more frequent and intense heat-waves, we need to be prepared.''

Temperatures: The average land and ocean-surface temperature for the decade 2001-2010 was estimated to be 14.47°C, or 0.47°C above the 1961 - 1990 global average and +0.21°C above the 1991 - 2000 global average (with a factor of uncertainty of ± 0.1°C). Results from WMO's survey showed that nearly 94% of reporting countries had their warmest decade in 2001-2010 and no country reported a nationwide average decadal temperature anomaly cooler than the long term average.

Precipitation, floods, & droughts: The 2001-2010 decade was the second wettest since 1901. Globally, 2010 was the wettest year since the start of instrumental records. Most parts of the globe had above-normal precipitation during the decade. The eastern USA, northern and eastern Canada, and many parts of Europe and central Asia were particularly wet. Droughts affect more people than any other kind of natural disaster owing to their large scale and long-lasting nature. The decade 2001-2010 saw droughts occur in all parts of the world. Some of the highest-impact and long-term droughts struck Australia (in 2002 and other years), East Africa (2004 and 2005, resulting in widespread loss of life) and the Amazon Basin (2010) with negative environmental impacts.

Tropical cyclones: Between 2001 and 2010, there were 511 tropical cyclone related disaster events which resulted in a total of nearly 170,000 persons reported killed, over 250 million people reported affected and estimated economic damages of US$ 380 billion. According to the U.S. NOAA, 2001-2010 was the most active decade since 1855 in terms of tropical cyclone activity in the North Atlantic Basin. An average of 15 named storms per year was recorded, well above the long-term average of 12. The North Indian Ocean saw the deadliest tropical cyclone recorded during the decade, when Tropical Cyclone Nargis struck Myanmar in early May 2008. More than 138 000 people were reported killed or missing, eight million people were affected and thousands of homes were destroyed.

Impacts: During the decade 2001-2010, more than 370,000 people died as a result of extreme weather and climate conditions, including heat, cold, drought, storms and floods, according to the data provided by the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED). This was 20% higher than 1991-2000. This increase is due mainly to the 2003 heat wave in Europe and the 2010 in Russia which contributed to an increase of more than 2000% in the global death toll from heat waves (from less than 6000 in 1991-2000 to 136 000 in 2001-2010). On the other hand, there was a 16% decline in deaths due to storms and 43% decline in deaths from floods, thanks mainly to better early warning systems and increased preparedness and despite an increase in populations in disaster-prone areas. According to the 2011 Global Assessment Report, the average population exposed to flooding every year increased by 114% globally between 1970 and 2010, a period in which the world's population increased by 87% from 3.7 billion to 6.9 billion. The number of people exposed to severe storms almost tripled in cyclone-prone areas, increasing by 192%, in the same period.

    Access a release from WMO with charts and link to the more information and a video (click here). Access the complete report (click here). Access a 20-page summary report(click here). Access the WMO website for more information (click here). Access the Global Framework for Climate Services (click here). [#Climate]

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