2015 Is Set To Be The Hottest Year On Record

Men trying to cool off during the intense heat wave that took hold of India in 2015. Saikat Paul/Shutterstock

This year will likely be the warmest on record, with the period of 2011-2015 clocking in as the warmest five-year stretch since documentation began, according to the World Meteorological Organization’s (WMO) state of the global climate report. The cause has been put down to man-made climate change driven by rising greenhouse gas emissions, and has been exasperated this year by a particularly strong El Niño event.   

“The state of the global climate in 2015 will make history as for a number of reasons,” said the WMO’s secretary general Michel Jarraud, in a statement. “2015 is likely to be the hottest year on record, with ocean surface temperatures at the highest level since measurements began. It is probable that the 1°C [1.8°F] threshold will be crossed. This is all bad news for the planet.”

The map documents how far the temperatures around the world have deviated from the 1961-1990 average. WMO

Comparing averages taken between 1961 and 1990, the authors found extreme weather events are increasing in occurrence and severity. According to the report, scientists are becoming more and more confident that these are being driven by anthropogenic, or man-made, climate change. As the world is set to surpass 1°C of warming from pre-industrial levels, scorching heat waves have affected many parts of the planet. For instance the one that hit India earlier this year, which caused an unusually high number of deaths as thousands of people succumbed to the sweltering heat.

Other parts of the world saw a massive increase in rainfall this year, with many countries breaking records in the wettest months since measurements began. Peru had massive flooding at the beginning of the year, displacing tens of thousands of people, while between May and October China experienced 35 heavy rain events. This caused an estimated economic loss of $25 billion (£16.6 billion) and affected 75 million people. Not only was there heavy rainfall in China, but the country also experienced the warmest year on record.

Graph shows the divergence of annual temperatures from the 1961-1990 average. WMO

Using the 1961-1990 average as a baseline, scientific research has found that the probability of extreme weather events occurring, especially those relating to high temperatures, has increased by a factor of 10 as a result of man-made climate change. All of these events have also been heavily impacted by the strong El Niño currently continuing to build in the Pacific. It is likely that this had an effect on the severity of the tropical storms experienced, and it is thought to have super charged hurricane Patricia, which was the strongest ever recorded in the western hemisphere.

“We are witnessing a powerful El Niño event, which is still gaining in strength. This is influencing weather patterns in many parts of the world and fueled an exceptionally warm October. The overall warming impact of this El Niño is expected to continue into 2016,” explains Jarraud. “Greenhouse gas emissions, which are causing climate change, can be controlled. We have the knowledge and the tools to act. We have a choice. Future generations will not.”

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