A decade of ‘exceptional global heat’


WMO says we’ve had another year of high-impact weather.


Drought is one of the most damaging results of a decade of increasing heat.

David Trood / Getty Images

The World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) says 2019 is on course to be the second or third warmest year on record, bringing to an end a decade of exceptional global heat, retreating ice and record sea levels driven by greenhouse gases from human activities.

In a provisional statement on its forthcoming State of the Global Climate report, it says average temperatures for the five-year (2015-2019) and 10-year (2010-2019) periods are almost certain to be the highest on record.

This year’s global average temperature (January to October) is about 1.1 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial period.

“On a day-to-day basis, the impacts of climate change play out through extreme and abnormal weather, and once again in 2019 weather and climate-related risks hit hard,” says WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas.

“Heatwaves and floods which used to be once-in-a-century events are becoming more regular occurrences. Countries ranging from the Bahamas to Japan to Mozambique suffered the effect of devastating tropical cyclones. Wildfires swept through the Arctic and Australia.

“One of the main impacts of climate change is more erratic rainfall patterns. This poses a threat to crop yields and, combined with population increase, will mean considerable food security challenges for vulnerable countries in the future.”

The release of the provisional report coincides with the UN Climate Change Conference COP25 in Madrid, Spain. The final report, with complete 2019 data, will be published in March 2020.

The provisional report devotes an extensive section to weather and climate impacts on human health, food security, migration, ecosystems and marine life. Some of the key points follow.

Global climate indicators

Most land areas were warmer than the recent average in 2019, including South America, Europe, Africa, Asia and Oceania. The Arctic and Alaska were unusually warm. In contrast, a large area of North America has been colder than the recent average.

Greenhouse gas concentrations

Greenhouse gas concentrations reached new highs in 2018, and real-time data from a number of specific locations indicate that CO2 levels continued to rise in 2019.

Global mean sea level rise

In October 2019, the global mean sea level reached its highest value since the beginning of the high-precision altimetry record (January 1993).

Ocean heat

The ocean has on average experienced around 1.5 months of unusually warm temperatures during 2019. More of the ocean had a marine heatwave classified as "strong" (38%) than "moderate" (28%). In the north-east Pacific, large areas reached “severe”.

Decline of sea ice

The continued long-term decline of Arctic Sea Ice was confirmed in 2019. The September monthly average extent (usually the lowest of the year) was the third lowest on record with the daily minimum extent tied for second lowest

Food security

In Southern Africa, the start of the seasonal rains was delayed and there were extensive dry periods, and food security has been deteriorating in several areas of Ethiopia, Somalia, Kenya and Uganda due to a poor long/Gu rainy season. Overall, about 12.3 million people are food insecure in the Horn of Africa region.

Associated with the worst flooding in a decade affecting some parts of Afghanistan in March, 13.5 million people are food insecure.

Population displacement

More than 10 million new internal displacements were recorded between January and June 2019 – seven million being triggered by disasters such as Cyclone Idai in Southeast Africa, Cyclone Fani in South Asia, Hurricane Dorian in the Caribbean, flooding in Iran, the Philippines and Ethiopia, associated with acute humanitarian and protection needs.

Floods were the most commonly cited natural hazard contributing to displacement, followed by storms and droughts. Asia and the Pacific remains the world’s most disaster displacement-prone region due to both sudden and slow-onset disasters.

The number of new displacements associated with weather extremes could more than triple to around 22 million by the end of 2019.

Access the full statement here.

  1. https://library.wmo.int/doc_num.php?explnum_id=10108
  2. https://unfccc.int/cop25
  3. https://library.wmo.int/doc_num.php?explnum_id=10108
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