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State of the Climate Report 2020: Record ocean temperatures and we continue to increase emissions

Climate change does not understand pandemics and continues its inexorable advance in this year 2020. This is reflected in the Report on the State of the Climate 2020 of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), which warns of extreme levels also in the warming of the oceans.

At this rate, it is likely that global warming of 1.5º C will be reached – the limit set by the Paris Agreements – by the year 2024. Beyond this limit, experts warn of chain consequences in all ecosystems whose scope is difficult to foresee.

In addition, the reduction of emissions due to the paralysis of the world economy by the first wave of COVID-19 has had relatively little impact on global emissions and this year we have continued to increase greenhouse gases “condemning the planet to a greater warming by many more generations due to the long permanence of CO2 in the atmosphere “according to the statement of the organization for the climate dependent on the United Nations.

The Carbon Monitor application estimates the drop by 5.5% compared to the previous year, which would not be enough to have an impact on global accumulation, according to the WMO.

The year 2020 is on its way to becoming one of the three warmest ever recorded, with the aggravation that this year we are experiencing a La Niña phenomenon, which generally cools global temperatures.

“Record hot years have generally coincided with a strong El Niño episode, as was the case in 2016,” said Petteri Taalas, WMO Secretary. “An episode of La Niña is currently developing, which although it has a cooling effect on world temperatures, has not been enough to counteract the heat of this year. And although La Niña conditions currently exist, in this year there has already been a near record rise in temperatures, comparable to the previous record in 2016, “added Professor Taalas.

A clearer trend is impossible: the six warmest years are those recorded since 2015 and the decade from 2011 to 2020 will be the warmest on record.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has gone further by calling on the international community to put an end to the “war against nature” which he has described as “suicidal” and to put aside fossil fuels during a speech on the state of the Planet at Columbia University. Although he also claims to have “hope”.

Heat saturation in the oceans

The oceans absorb 90% of the heat from the atmosphere so it is not surprising, although it is no less worrying, that ocean temperatures are also reaching record values. In this case the records are more recent, but a significant fact is that this year 80% of the global oceans were affected by a heat wave.

The intermediate depths of the oceans – between 0 and 2,000 meters – have reached heat records in the last 10 years.

The pH of the oceans continues to fall due to the absorption of excess CO2 in the atmosphere and other gases. This, in addition to causing chemical changes that affect all marine ecosystems, reduces the ocean’s ability to absorb greenhouse gases.

A retreating cryosphere

The cryosphere, the icy surface of the planet, is consequently shrinking. The report points to the extreme heat that Siberia has experienced for most of the year, leaving much of the Arctic Ocean ice-free. In July the record for the minimum extent of ice for the Arctic Ocean was broken and at its time of minimum extent, in September, it fell to 3.74km, very close to the absolute record set in 2012 with 3.39 million km2.

Then the Arctic ice began to recover but very slowly.

The report confirms that overall changes in the Arctic are among the most drastic “since the mid-1980s, Arctic surface air temperatures have warmed at least twice as fast as the global average, while sea ice , Greenland’s ice sheet and glaciers have declined over the same period and permafrost temperatures have risen. This has potentially large implications not only for Arctic ecosystems, but also for global climate through various chain reactions. “says the document.

Extreme events

The report includes a list of high-impact meteorological events in 2020: the increase in floods, especially in Asia and Africa, and heat waves and drought in Latin America, Siberia, fires in Australia and the United States are noted. or the summer heat waves of Europe.

There have also been extreme episodes of snow and cold, especially in the United States and Canada and also indicate the exceptional hurricane season in the Atlantic, the most active in history, in addition to other storms such as the exceptional Medicane (Mediterranean hurricane) that hit Greece.

“Sadly, 2020 has been another extraordinary year for our climate,” said Petteri Taalas. “There were more extreme temperatures on the land surface, at sea and especially in the Arctic. Wildfires destroyed large areas in Australia, Siberia, the west coast of the United States and South America, and plumes of smoke gave the Around the globe. A record number of hurricanes were recorded in the Atlantic, including an unprecedented consecutive occurrence of Category 4 hurricanes in Central America in November. Flooding in parts of Africa and Southeast Asia caused massive displacements of population and undermined the food security of millions of people, “he concluded.

The version published today is a provisional document that covers what happened between January and October. The final version with data for the whole year will be published in March 2021. The report incorporates data collected by weather and climate agencies around the world in addition to reports and figures from other United Nations agencies.

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