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Chair lifts sit empty at a ski resort that has had to close a number of slopes because of a lack of snow, on January 30, 2020 in Minamiuonuma, Japan. Large parts of Japan are dealing with the warmest winter since records began, causing a lack of snow in areas that are usually blanketed. (Photo: Carl Court/Getty Images)

Record-Breaking Warm Weather Expected Around Globe As Human-Caused Climate Crisis Now As Powerful As El Niño's Effects, Says WMO

The world's top meteorological experts issued the warning as cities and countries around the world reported record-breaking warm winters.

Julia Conley

As countries accustomed to cold, snowy winters reported record-breaking warm weather this season, meteorological experts on Monday predicted that temperatures over the next several months will also be warmer than usual—even without the effects of El Niño.

In its El Niño/Southern Oscillation (ENSO) update, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said that the naturally-occurring El Niño phenomenon has only a 20 to 35% chance of taking place between March and August 2020. Warm weather mirroring El Niño's effects, however, is 55 to 60% likely over that same time period.

"Even ENSO neutral months are warmer than in the past, as air and sea surface temperatures and ocean heat have increased due to climate change," said WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas in a statement. "The signal from human-induced climate change is now as powerful as that from a major natural force of nature."

El Niño, which involves changes in Pacific Ocean surface temperatures and in the "overlying atmospheric circulation," as the WMO wrote, is associated with drought, rain, and other weather events associated with warmer temperatures.

Even without the phenomenon, above-average sea surface temperatures are expected in both tropical and non-tropical regions in the next several months, which will lead to unusually warm weather on land as well.

The WMO report came as officials from around the world reported that cities and countries in a number of regions are experiencing unusually warm winters.

Moscow has had its warmest winter season in 200 years of record-keeping, with an average temperature of 32.3 degrees Fahrenheit—the first winter the city has experienced with an average temperature above freezing. Data is still being recorded throughout Russia, the Washington Post reported, and the entire country may have set a warm-weather record this winter.

Japan and France have also recorded their warmest winters.

A number of cities accustomed to snowy winters saw little to no snowfall this year; Helsinki, Finland recorded a total accumulation of 0.2 centimeters all winter, with no snow in January and February. In the U.S., Washington D.C. recorded less than an inch of snow this winter, compared to its average snowfall of more than 15 inches. New York City also recorded its second-least snowy winter ever.

On social media, climate experts recorded a number of unusually warm winters around the world, with the Post's Capital Weather Gang calling some of the records "astonishing."

"With more than 90% of the energy trapped by greenhouse gases going into the ocean, ocean heat content is at record levels," said Taalas. "Thus, 2016 was the warmest year on record as a result of a combination of a strong El Niño and human-induced global warming. 2019 was the second warmest year on record, even though there was no strong El Niño. We just had the warmest January on record."


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