The American Meteorological Society (AMS) has just released its annual summary of the global climate, the State of the Climate 2016, written by nearly 500 experts from around the world. The results of this report not only confirm a common thought -2016 was the warmer year on record- but also show hair-raising data and climate anomalies that few people are talking about.
2016: A record in surface temperatures and in CO2 concentration
The activities of human beings are increasing their impact in the planet year after year. In 2016, the annual global surface temperature increased for third year in a row, becoming the hottest year in recorded history – for now.
And why should that matter to us? Because it means ice melting, sea levels rising, freshwater shortages for agricultural productivity and lack of food, which will arise more conflicts and emigration. We may survive to a temperature increase, but that’s useless if we don’t have enough food and water.
As the map below shows, in most of the planet regions, the 2016 average temperature was between 2-4 ºF higher than the average from the period 1981-2010.
(Global surface temperatures in 2016 in comparison with the average of 1981-2010 degrees F – source: NOAA climate.gov)
Moreover, year 2016 has registered the largest annual raise of global atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2). From 2015 to 2016 this value increased by 3.5 ppm, surpassing the boundary of 400 ppm for the first time ever: 402.9 ppm.
The Arctic temperature rise, the main climate anomaly
Besides the global surface temperatures, the sea level also rose to a record: it increased for sixth year in a row, being 3.25 inches (83 mm) higher than it was in 1993. But the alarming statistics of the State of the Climate 2016 are on the Arctic surface temperatures, both in land and sea.
The average land surface temperature at the Arctic was 3.6°F (2.0°C) above the 1981-2010 average, while in other regions at sea this increase was much higher. In August 2016, regions of the Chukchi Sea and the west of Greenland showed an increase of 13 to 14 ºF (7 to 8ºC) above 1981-2010 average. However, that is still below the extraordinary register in the Barents Sea during the same month: 20 ºF (11ºC) above average. In fact, the rate of warming in the Arctic is twice the rate of the world average, and that is originating serious consequences for the rest of the planet.
(Arctic and global annual land surface air temperature for 1900-2016 relative to the 1981-2010 average. Source: State of the climate 2016)
Aside from these figures, other natural disasters occurred around the globe: important floods in Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay; extraordinary droughts in Brazil, Russia, Eastern Europe and U.S; and a wildfire in Canada, the costliest disaster ever in the country.
Major changes need to be done
The data exposed by the AMS confirms the increasing speed of the planet warming, caused by the economic and demographic growth of the hydrocarbon man. The key to turn this situation around begins, basically, with a faster deployment of renewable sources around the world.
In fact, according to the World Energy Outlook 2016, published this month by the International Energy Agency (IEA), renewable energies are already the world’s second largest source of electricity, behind coal. Therefore, it is in sectors such as heat and transport where renewable share must be immediately increased.