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Most Extreme Weather 'Virtually Impossible' Without Man-Made Warming

13 of the 14 warmest years on record occured in 21st century

Jacob Chamberlain

Extreme weather systems wreaking havoc across the world would have been "virtually impossible" without man-made climate change, says a report released Monday by the UN's World Meteorological Organization (WMO).

The Statement on the Status of the Global Climate in 2013, which is released annually by the WMO, also reports this year that the world has unequivocally warmed dramatically over the last one hundred years and continues to heat up.

According to the report, 13 of the 14 warmest years on record all occurred in the 21st century. 2013 was the sixth warmest year on record, in a tie with 2007. Over the last 30 years, each decade has been warmer than the last, "culminating with 2001-2010 as the warmest decade on record," said the WMO.

While natural disasters would occur regardless of climate change and have been historically exacerbated my natural changes in weather patterns, this human-induced warming is quickly magnifying those events and making them far worse than they would have been without anthropogenic causes, explained Michel Jarraud, secretary general of the WMO.

A primary example given by the scientists is the record hot Australian summer of 2012/13. "Comparing climate model simulations with and without human factors shows that the record hot Australian summer of 2012/13 was about five times as likely as a result of human-induced influence on climate and that the record hot calendar year of 2013 would have been virtually impossible without human contributions of heat-trapping gases, illustrating that some extreme events are becoming much more likely due to climate change,” the study concludes.

"Many of the extreme events of 2013 were consistent with what we would expect as a result of human-induced climate change," Jarraud said. "We saw heavier precipitation, more intense heat, and more damage from storm surges and coastal flooding as a result of sea level rise — as Typhoon Haiyan so tragically demonstrated in the Philippines."

Among the list of events "consistent" with human-induced climate change, the scientists list:

  • Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda), one of the strongest storms to ever make landfall, devastated parts of the central Philippines.
  • Surface air temperatures over land in the Southern Hemisphere were very warm, with widespread heat waves; Australia saw record warmth for the year, and Argentina its second warmest year and New Zealand its third warmest.
  • Frigid polar air plummeted into parts of Europe and the southeast United States.
  • Angola, Botswana and Namibia were gripped by severe drought.
  • Heavy monsoon rains led to severe floods on the India-Nepal border.
  • Heavy rains and floods impacted northeast China and the eastern Russian Federation.
  • Heavy rains and floods affected Sudan and Somalia.
  • Major drought affected southern China.
  • Northeastern Brazil experienced its worst drought in the past 50 years.
  • The widest tornado ever observed struck El Reno, Oklahoma in the United States.
  • Extreme precipitation led to severe floods in Europe’s Alpine region and in Austria, Czech Republic, Germany, Poland, and Switzerland.
  • Israel, Jordan, and Syria were struck by unprecedented snowfall.
  • Greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere reached record highs.
  • The global oceans reached new record high sea levels.
  • The Antarctic sea ice extent reached a record daily maximum.

Additionally, “there is no standstill in global warming,” said Jarraud, in response to claims that global warming has slowed down, or paused in recent years. "The warming of our oceans has accelerated, and at lower depths. More than 90 percent of the excess energy trapped by greenhouse gases is stored in the oceans. Levels of these greenhouse gases are at record levels, meaning that our atmosphere and oceans will continue to warm for centuries to come. The laws of physics are non-negotiable.”

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