2014 may turn out to be hottest year ever

What is particularly unusual and alarming this year are the high temperatures of vast areas of the ocean surface, including in the northern hemisphere, says WMO top official

By Vineet Kumar
Last Updated: Monday 17 August 2015

Sydney experienced a record-smashing 14-day heatwave in May this year

UN’s specialized agency, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), released a provisional statement at the ongoing Conference of Parties in Lima, Peru (COP 20). The Status of the Global Climate in 2014 says the year is on track to becoming the hottest, or one of the hottest years on record, largely due to record high global sea surface temperatures, which will very likely remain above normal until the end of the year.

If November and December also follow the same path, then 2014 will likely be the hottest on record, ahead of 2010, 2005 and 1998, says a WMO press release. Global average air temperature over land and sea surface for January to October was about 0.57°C above the average of 14.00°C for the 1961-1990 reference period, and 0.09°C above the average for the past ten years (2004-2013).

High sea temperatures, together with other factors, contributed to exceptionally heavy rainfall and floods in many countries and extreme drought in others.

“The provisional information for 2014 means that 14 of the 15 warmest years on record have all occurred in the 21st century,” said WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud. “There is no standstill in global warming,” he said.

“What we saw in 2014 is consistent with what we expect from a changing climate. Record-breaking heat combined with torrential rainfall and floods destroyed livelihoods and ruined lives. What is particularly unusual and alarming this year are the high temperatures of vast areas of the ocean surface, including in the northern hemisphere,” he said.

“Record-high greenhouse gas emissions and associated atmospheric concentrations are committing the planet to a much more uncertain and inhospitable future. WMO and its members will continue to improve forecasts and services to help people cope with more frequent and damaging extreme weather and climate conditions,” said Jarraud.

This statement was released to inform the annual climate change negotiations taking place in Lima, Peru.

Highlights from WMO statement

Land surface temperatures: Average surface air temperatures over land for January to October 2014 were about 0.86°C above the 1961-1990 average, the fourth or fifth warmest for the same period on record.

Ocean heat:
Global sea-surface temperatures were the highest on record, at about 0.45°C above the 1961-1990 average.

Sea level and sea ice: In early 2014, global-average measured sea-level reached a record high for the time of year.

Flooding: Several regions of the world was devastated by floods, including Serbia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Russia, Turkey, France, japan, USA, India and Pakistan.

Drought: Parts of the world like northeast China, central America, central Brazil, western US, Canada were affected by drought.

Tropical cyclones: Until November 13, 72 tropical storms – storms where wind speeds equalled or exceeded 17.5 m/s (63 km/hr)—were recorded, fewer than the 1981-2010 average of 89 storms

Greenhouse gases: GHGs reached new highs in 2013. Data for 2014 have not yet been processed.

Observations regarding India: WMO statement observed that Indian summer monsoon rainfall ended up 12 per cent below normal for the country and season as a whole, which is considered to be a deficient monsoon.

In September, heavy rains caused severe flooding in northern Pakistan and India. About 250 people were drowned and over 100,000 were displaced. In Assam, in the north east of India, there was severe flooding during the last two weeks of September. Around one million people in 25,000 villages were affected and there was widespread damage to crops and property.

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