Number of hot days each year since 1950 relative to the 1961-1990 Graphic: NOAA

State of the Climate: 2017 warmest non-El Niño year on record

August 3rd, 2018

Last year was the warmest year on record without the influence of El Niño, meaning that the four warmest years on record have now occurred since 2014.

This is the finding of the 28th annual State of the Climate report led by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and based on the work of over 500 scientists in 65 countries.

The comprehensive report also indicates that annual global average carbon dioxide concentration at the Earth’s surface is now at 405 parts per million (ppm).

This is the highest level recorded in the modern 38-year global climate record and records from ice-core samples dating as far back as 800,000 years. The latest measurements from June 2018 show that levels are now at 408 ppm.

Arctic sea ice coverage was the lowest in the 38-year record, while the Antarctic also saw record low coverage. On 1 March 2017, the sea ice extent fell to 2.1 million square kilometers, the lowest observed daily value since satellite recordings began in 1978.

Coral bleaching at Heron Island Feb 2016 Photo: The Ocean Agency / XL Catlin Seaview Survey / Richard Vevers

Coral bleaching at Heron Island Feb 2016 Photo: The Ocean Agency / XL Catlin Seaview Survey / Richard Vevers

Oceans rising and warming

Global sea level is now three inches higher than the 1993 average, the report states, and is rising at an average rate of 1.2 inches per decade.

Heat in the upper ocean hit a record high and sea surface temperatures hit a near-record high, the report states, with the long-term trend indicating further heating.

Unprecedented coral reef bleaching has continued, with a global coral bleaching event spanning from June 2014 through May 2017.

This has resulted in “unprecedented impacts on reefs”, the report warns, with more than 95 per cent of coral in some affected areas reported to have died.

Coral bleaching occurs where corals expel crucial algae living symbiotically within their tissues as a stress response to increasing ocean temperatures. When bleaching is severe and prolonged, many of the corals die and it can take several decades for new coral to grow back.

A study released in January 2018 found that the current rate of coral bleaching is happening faster than in any other era in history. According to the study in Science, the frequency of the bleaching is undermining the capacity of coral reefs to recover and is threatening their very existence.

Heatwave hitting Iberian Peninsula, August 2018 Graphic: AccuWeather

Heatwave hitting the Iberian Peninsula, August 2018 Graphic: AccuWeather

Extreme Weather

Last year also saw a “wide swing of precipitation extremes” from “remarkable” tropical and post-tropical cyclone precipitation to “extreme” drought conditions at three per cent or more of the globe’s land area in all twelve months, the report finds.

Europe experienced its fifth warmest year on record in 2017. Record temperatures were recorded in Bulgaria and Spain, where the record is set to fall again in the coming days as another heatwave grips the Iberian Peninsula.

According to AccuWeather, the heatwave will be the “most intense and longest” to hit the Iberian Peninsula so far this summer, with temperatures are set to rise to 41°C in Madrid and 43°C in Seville

AccuWeather Meteorologist, Tyler Roys said that it is “not out of the question” for temperatures to reach 49C in southwestern Spain and parts of southern Portugal over the weekend.

Both Spain and Portugal’s record temperature recordings sit at just over 47°C and the European record, set in Athens in 1977, is 48°C.

In Ireland, Shannon Airport reported its wettest July in its 71-year record last year and a new high rainfall record of 133mm (203 per cent of normal). An individual wave height record of 26.1m was set at the Kinsale gas platform off the Cork coast during storm Ophelia.

About the Author

Niall Sargent

Niall is the Editor of The Green News. He is a multimedia journalist, with an MA in Investigative Journalism from City University, London

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