Another climate record falls: warnings, melting glaciers and how to survive 50 C suburban summers

It seems like rarely a year goes by anymore without a new heat record broken. Currently the three hottest years on record are 2016, 2019 and 2020, with every other year between 2015 and 2021 coming in hot behind.

World Meteorological Organization’s provisional State of the Global Climate in 2022 report says that despite three years of La Niña, the global temperature in 2022 is estimated to be about 1.15 degrees warmer than pre-industrial levels.

That, the report explains, means that the last eight years are still likely the hottest on record and that this year will be either fifth or sixth.

Global warming predictions are an average of points throughout the planet and are variable.

For example the Bureau of Meteorology has been tracking climate change as it affects Australia and the impact of La Nina is clearly evident, and says Australia’s climate has risen by 1.44 degrees C on average.

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Global mean temperatures. Credit: WMO.

The WMO report includes several other indicators in the report apart from temperature which were also not looking good.

Concentrations of greenhouse gasses like carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide reached record highs in 2021, and are likely to hit record highs again in 2022.

“The greater the warming, the worse the impacts. We have such high levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere now that the lower 1.5°C of the Paris Agreement is barely within reach,” said WMO Secretary-General Professor Petteri Taalas.

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Australia’s temperatures from 1910 to 2022. Credit: BoM

“It’s already too late for many glaciers and the melting will continue for hundreds if not thousands of years, with major implications for water security. The rate of sea level rise has doubled in the past 30 years. Although we still measure this in terms of millimetres per year, it adds up to half to one meter per century and that is a long-term and major threat to many millions of coastal dwellers and low-lying states.”

Read more: Half a year of dangerous heat beckons for parts of Australia in 1.8-degree warmer world

This year was also particularly damaging to glaciers in the European Alps, with initial indications of record-shattering melt. The Greenland ice sheet lost mass for the 26th consecutive year and it rained there for the first time in September as it was too warm for snow.

The WMO released the report on the eve of the UN climate negotiations in Sharm-El-Sheikh, COP27.

“All too often, those least responsible for climate change suffer most – as we have seen with the terrible flooding in Pakistan and deadly, long-running drought in the Horn of Africa. But even well-prepared societies this year have been ravaged by extremes – as seen by the protracted heatwaves and drought in large parts of Europe and southern China,” said Taalas.

“Increasingly extreme weather makes it more important than ever to ensure that everyone on Earth has access to life-saving early warnings.”

Earlier this year records were broken across Europe, and the UK had their hottest day on record.

Although Australia is more likely to see floods than heatwaves during the Southern Hemisphere summer thanks to La Nina, Dr Sharon Campbell, from the Menzies Institute for Medical Research at the University of Tasmania told Cosmos back in July that Australia needs to be prepared for 50°C in areas like Western Sydney.

“Driven by human-induced climate change, extreme and record-breaking temperatures have hit Australia, the United States and now Europe across successive summers,” Campbell said.

“Australia needs to actively prepare for 50°C in major population centres like Western Sydney. This takes government leadership and community understanding.

“We have seen a shift to greater recognition of these risks with a recent change in federal government, and this needs to be urgently followed by greater investment in research, adaptation initiatives and education.”

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