It’s looking like 2017 is on track to become one of the three hottest years on record.
The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) released a provisional statement yesterday, the opening day of the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Bonn, claiming it was “very likely” that 2017 will either be the second or third hottest year on record. The global mean temperature from January to September 2017 was about 0.47°C (0.85°F) warmer than the 1981-2010 average of approximately 14.31°C (57.76°F). That equates to a 1.1°C (1.98°F) rise in temperature since pre-industrial levels.
However, while this year is unlikely to be warmer than the record-breaking 2016, things aren't on the up. If forecasts are correct, 2017 will actually be the hottest year on record without the warming influence of the El Niño weather event.
The El Niño-Southern Oscillation is a climate cycle in the Pacific Ocean that has a global impact on weather patterns. During the years of warming El Niño phases, like 2014 to 2016, you can expect warming global temperatures. 2017, however, was not subjected to an El Niño warming phase, so there is “no excuse” for the rise in temperatures this year.
The WMO also noted how this year has been defined by extreme weather across the globe, including the three catastrophic hurricanes that ravaged the US and the Caribbean two months ago, the major monsoon floods in the Indian subcontinent, heavy droughts in East Africa, and wildfires across the Mediterranean and the Americas.
The leading culprit behind this rising temperature and extreme weather is human-driven climate change. Petteri Taalas, WMO Secretary-General, told the audience at Bonn 2017 UN climate change conference that the warm temperatures and extreme weather events “bear the tell-tale sign of climate change caused by increased greenhouse gas concentrations from human activities.”
A handful of scientists independent of the WMO and the UN said the findings were highly concerning, yet hardly surprising.
"The weather for one given year in insolation does not tell us about climate change, but combined with the long record of temperatures, ocean heat content, sea level, and ice sheet size we have, it is absolutely clear that the world is warming, and that it is our continued release of greenhouse gases that is causing it," Dr Paul Young, Climate Scientist at the Lancaster Environment Centre, said in a statement.
"The one good news story that we have is that the ozone layer is showing signs of recovery, and that the latest data suggests that this year’s Antarctic ozone hole is one of the smallest in recent years. We need to continue our vigilance in not releasing more ozone depletion substances, but we can take heart that the world can come together and agree action to protect the environment."