Global land surface temperatures for January and April will likely be ranked as the warmest since records began in 1880, the United Nations World Meteorological Organization (WMO) reported today, adding that it is working with its partners to set up a multi-hazard early warning system to tackle the extremes brought on by climate change, such as violence storms, floods and heatwaves.

“Weather and climate are marked by record extremes in many regions across the world since January 2007,” WMO said in its update, noting that global temperatures were 1.89°C warmer than average for January and 1.37°C warmer than average for April. It noted that the most recent assessment report by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) found that the warming of the climate system was unequivocal and most likely due to human activities such as the burning of fossil fuels.

Among the latest extremes WMO cited four monsoon depressions, double the normal, which caused heavy floods in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, killing more than 500 people, displacing over 10 million others and destroying vast areas of croplands, livestock and property; the first documented cyclone in the Arabian Sea hitting Oman and Iran; and the wettest May to July period in England and Wales (406 milimetres) since records began in 1766.

Others included a powerful storm system in much of northern Europe in January; abnormally heavy and early rainfall in Sudan since the end of June; a series of large swell waves (estimated at 3-4.5 metres) that swamped 68 islands in the Maldives in May; two extreme record-breaking heat waves in south-eastern Europe in June and July; and a heat wave that swept across western and central Russia in May, breaking several records.

“Recognizing the severe health impacts of heat waves, the WMO and the [UN] World Health Organization (WHO), are at an advanced stage of preparing Guidance on the implementation of Heat Health early Warning Systems,” the agency said. Nor was the southern hemisphere spared extremes.

An unusual cold southern winter brought winds, blizzards and rare snowfall to various parts of South America with temperatures reaching as low as -22°C in Argentina and -18°C in Chile in July. In June South Africa experienced its first significant snowfall since 1981 with 25 centimetres registered in parts of the country.

By contrast, in the northern hemisphere winter many European countries had their warmest January on record, with The Netherlands reporting the highest since measurements were first taken in 1706, averaging about 7.1°C (2.8°C above 1961-1990 average) while in Germany the temperatures were 4.6°C above the 1961-1990 average.

An increase in intense tropical cyclone activity in the North Atlantic since about 1970 has also been observed. “WMO and the National Meteorological and Hydrological Services of its 188 Members are working with other UN agencies and partners towards the establishment of a multi-hazard early warning system,” the agency declared.

“Furthermore, they are putting in place sustainable observation systems needed for monitoring and assessing the impacts of climate change and determining the adaptation priorities for the most vulnerable countries.”


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