Last updated November 28, 2017 at 9:58 am
With only two months of the year left, it looks like 2017 will comfortably sit within the top three hottest years on record.
There are continued trends of global warming, as revealed in a provisional Statement on the State of the Climate from the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).
Place your bets between 2017 and 2015 which are competing for second and third place for the hottest year on record, with 2016 remaining the top spot. The Statement showed the average global temperature from January to September 2017 was approximately 1.1°C about the pre-industrial era.
“Although 2017 will not be the world’s warmest year on record, it will still be warmer than any year before 2015,” stated Dr Blair Trewin, the Scientific Coordinator of the WMO Statement.
“2017 saw record-breaking heatwaves in Chile, the Mediterranean, Southwest Asia and California, as well as continuing severe drought in East Africa and destructive floods in the Indian subcontinent, and a very active North Atlantic hurricane season.”
The WMO statement is released on the opening day of COP23, the United National climate change conference in Bonn, Germany.
Selected highlights reveal 2017 trends in global temperatures (they’re rising), precipitation (wetter than average in some places, drier than average in other places), ice and snow (Arctic and Antarctic sea ice extent was well below average), sea level (relatively stable, but starting to rise again), ocean heat (sustained high temperatures, with mention of coral bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef), ocean acidification (steadily increasing as the ocean continues to absorb CO2), greenhouse gases (CO2, methane, nitrous oxide levels increased).
It also covers an overview into extreme events and impacts ranging from tropical cyclones, flooding, drought, major heatwaves and wildfires.
Some of the extreme weather mentions included Australian events:
“Much of eastern Australia experienced extreme heat in January and February, peaking on 11-12 February when temperatures reached 47°C.
“There were also significant fires during the 2016-2017 Southern Hemisphere summer in various parts of eastern Australia.
“Other regions where record low temperatures occurred in 2017 included some locations in inland south-eastern Australia in early July, where Canberra had its lowest temperature (−8.7°C) since 1971.”
Read these reactions from Australian experts about the WMO Statement:
Associate Professor Ana Vila Concejo is Deputy Director of the University of Sydney’s One Tree Island Research Station.
“Global coral bleaching has caused great damage to coral reefs of the world, including the Great Barrier Reef. The ecological impacts are terrible but there are also physical effects.
Coral reefs are the greatest wave dissipaters of the world, protecting the land behind them from the incoming waves. Reefs without live corals do not provide as much protection; protecting coral reefs means protecting the coasts behind them”
Dr Don Clifton from UniSA’s School of Management
“The scientific evidence supporting human-caused global warming is overwhelming.
Yet progress to address the problem is still hampered by ideology over evidence, political inaction, and the self-interest of powerful players in industries that are key drivers of our impact on the climate.
We are at high risk of leaving a terrible legacy to future generations who have no say in our actions (and inactions) that impact on them.
We owe it to our children, and their children, and every other species we share the planet with, to get on with the job of taking decisive steps to do what is needed. Hopefully the latest WMO release will help and not end up being just another report put on the evidence pile that has so far failed to trigger the needed action. ”
Dr Andrew King is Climate Extremes Research Fellow at the ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science, University of Melbourne.
“Even without an El Niño boost it looks like 2017 will be one of the hottest years on record. This year fits into the long-term trend of global warming with more hot years set to come over the next decade or two. We have now had a little over 1-degree Celsius of global temperature rise due to human-caused climate change and even if we meet the Paris global warming targets we can expect to see more frequent and intense extreme weather events, especially heatwaves, in the future. In that sense 2017 provides a window to our warmer future.”
Associate Professor Martina Doblin from the Climate Change Cluster (C3), University of Technology Sydney (UTS)
“Many animals, including humans, have the capacity to modify their behaviour and seek refuge in the face of environmental stress. For organisms attached to the seafloor, such as marine macroalgae, there is no escape.
The recent WMO update of hotter temperatures therefore spells bad news for these marine primary producers that are known to have upper limits of temperature tolerance. Just as the highly exposed or sensitive members of the human population are at risk of overheating, so are macroalgae and seagrasses. In fact, marine heatwaves experienced in Australia have already caused massive dieback of these important marine primary producers, threatening the socioeconomic benefits provided by coastal ecosystems.
The increased risk of further heat waves (intensive heat over relatively short time scales) as well as exposure to warmer temperatures over the longer term, suggest that recovery will depend on thermally-resistant individuals that may trade-off high temperature tolerance with other important attributes such as nutritional value or rapid growth. Such organisms therefore have the potential of surviving a warming climate, but at the cost of their functional capacity, with cascading impacts to the rest of the ecosystem.”
Dr Ashraf Dewan is from Curtin University; he has recently spent two years as a member of the World Meteorological Organization’s Commission for Climatology (CCI) on Mortality Extremes
“It is quite clear that Australia and the rest of the world has been suffering from climate extremes, and that we are seeing flooding, extreme temperatures and wild weather more frequently than ever before, and in places never before impacted. For example Canberra experienced the lowest temperature in 46 years when it recorded minus 8.7 in July this year. The City of Shanghai witnessed a record 40.9 degree celcius temperature during summer of 2017. During monsoon season this year, India experienced below average rainfall, while three hurricanes hit the North Atlantic. This new data by WMO is a wakeup call for us as extreme events are increasing exposure of countries and people to a multitude of hazards.”
Pep Canadell, CSIRO Research Scientist, and Executive Director of the Global Carbon Project
“It is most significant that temperatures haven’t returned to pre-El Niño yet, 1.5 years after it ended. Although we don’t know all the details as to why, the human interference of the climate system has never been so clearly manifested as the background global temperature continues to rise in response to greenhouse gas emissions.”
Dr Liz Hanna is an Honorary Senior Fellow at the Climate Change Institute at the Australian National University
“Alarming – but not unexpected.
After three consecutive years (2014 to 2016) of world breaking heat records, the World Meteorological Organization now reveals that the exceptional heat of 2017 is likely to come in as second or third hottest. This surge in global warming is alarming, but not unexpected. Global atmospheric CO2 levels are now 46 per cent higher than pre-industrial levels.
This escalation of warming should be sending alarm bells to all Australians, as Australia is over 10o°C hotter than the global average, and there is an upper limit to human tolerance to heat.
This extra warming brings more frequent, longer and more intense heat waves. Temperatures over 50°C are coming, and we simply cannot keep functioning in such temperatures where we cannot move and cannot work without overheating.
Air-conditioning can only ever provide limited relief, and only to some. Trees, animals and people all wilt in the heat.
This surge in warming should prompt a surge in effort to ramp up Australia’s mitigation efforts, transitioning to renewables.
Most importantly, this should further finally stop support for expanding our coal industry. A government that truly represents the nation must prioritise health protection. It is unconscionable to knowingly sacrifice health and wellbeing”
Expert comments gathered by the Australian Science Media Centre (AusSMC).