El Niño looms, making heat records more likely

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Startling records due to climate change have made the planet’s crisis clearer than ever in the past year.
According to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) in its 2022 State of the Climate report, the looming weather phenomenon El Niño also doesn’t bode well, WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas said Friday in Geneva. Because El Niño has a warming effect, researchers say a global temperature record could soon be set.
The El Niño event, which is likely to develop later this year, “first of all increases the probability that 2023 and 2024 will set or surpass the previous record value of 2016 in terms of global mean temperature,” said Andreas Fink of the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT). Helge Goessling of the Alfred Wegener Institute (AWI) in Bremerhaven takes a similar line, saying it could well be “that new global records will be set in 2023 or 2024.” Karsten Haustein of the Institute of Meteorology at the University of Leipzig considers it conceivable that 2024 “will also be the first time that the 1.5-degree limit is exceeded globally annually.”

The world’s countries want to prevent warming exceeding 1.5 degrees as far as possible. That’s what the Paris climate agreement says. But the climate protection efforts are nowhere near enough to achieve this. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has shown that the target will likely be exceeded for many years before the average global temperature falls again – but only if countries implement much tougher climate protection measures.

The 2022 records include the new low in Antarctic sea ice, the new high in greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere, the most extensive glacier melt in Europe, and the highest ocean heat content, the WMO report says. The values always refer to the beginning of measurements several decades or more ago.

The WMO confirmed that 2022 was the fifth or sixth warmest year since industrialization, at plus 1.15 degrees above the average from 1850 to 1900. The readings are so close to each other that it is impossible to distinguish them accurately. 2015 to 2022 were the eight warmest years.

This year’s developments, especially next year, will likely be dominated by El Niño. “Right now, it looks strongly like 2023 will be the first time since 2015/2016 that a strong El Niño will occur,” said climate scientist Haustein. El Niño is characterized by changing ocean and atmospheric currents and higher ocean surface temperatures in the Pacific Ocean. According to Haustein, El Niño has only a minor influence on the weather in Europe.

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