Next five years to be hottest ever, says WMO

| | New Delhi
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Next five years to be hottest ever, says WMO

Thursday, 18 May 2023 | Rajesh Kumar | New Delhi

Next five years to be hottest ever, says WMO

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has predicted that global temperatures are likely to surge to record levels in the next five years, fuelled by heat-trapping greenhouse gases and a naturally occurring El Niño event.

In its latest update, the WMO said that there is a 98 per cent likelihood that at least one of the next five years, and the five-year period as a whole, will be the warmest on record. 

Meanwhile, a study by World Weather Attribution too has emphasised that the region’s high vulnerability, known as a heatwave hotspot, exacerbated the impacts of the heatwave.

“There was a 66 per cent chance that annual global surface temperatures will exceed 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels for at least one of the years 2023-2027, with a range of 1.1 degrees Celsius to 1.8 degrees Celsius forecasted for each of those five years,” the WMO said.

The WMO last year stated that there was a 50:50 chance of the annual average global temperature temporarily reaching 1.5 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial level for at least one of the next five years — and the likelihood is increasing with time.

“This report does not mean that we will permanently exceed the 1.5 degrees Celsius level specified in the Paris Agreement which refers to long-term warming over many years. However, WMO is sounding the alarm that we will breach the 1.5 degrees Celsius level on a temporary basis with increasing frequency,” said WMO Secretary-General Prof Petteri Taalas.

The years from 2015 to 2022 were the hottest eight ever recorded, with 2016 being the warmest. But temperatures are forecast to rise further as climate change intensifies. The global mean temperature in 2022 was 1.15 degrees Celsius above the 1850-1900 average. The cooling influence of La Niña conditions over much of the past three years temporarily reined in the longer-term warming trend. But La Niña ended in March 2023 and an El Niño is forecast to develop in the coming months. Typically, El Niño increases global temperatures in the year after it develops — in this case this would be 2024.

There is only a 32 per cent chance that the five-year mean will exceed the 1.5 degrees Celsius threshold, according to the Global Annual to Decadal Climate Update produced by the United Kingdom’s Met Office, the WMO lead centre for such predictions.

The chance of temporarily exceeding 1.5 degrees Celsius has risen steadily since 2015, when it was close to zero.  For the years between 2017 and 2021, there was a 10 per cent chance of exceedance.

The WMO said that the annual mean global near-surface temperature for each year between 2023 and 2027 is predicted to be between 1.1 degrees Celsius and 1.8 degrees Celsius higher than the 1850-1900 average. This is used as a baseline because it was before the emission of greenhouse gases from human and industrial activities. There is a 98 per cent chance of at least one in the next five years beating the temperature record set in 2016, when there was an exceptionally strong El Niño. The chance of the five-year mean for 2023-2027 being higher than the last five years is also 98 per cent.

“Arctic warming is disproportionately high. Compared to the 1991-2020 average, the temperature anomaly is predicted to be more than three times as large as the global mean anomaly when averaged over the next five northern hemisphere extended winters.”

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