Nov 13, 2017

Hope is the last thing we have lost: New report of the World Meteorological Organization

United States
by
Gerardo Honty
,
América Latina en movimiento
Mount Kilimanjaro - a natural wonder at risk from climate change as its glaciers shrink. Photo: khanbm52, Getty Images/iStockphoto
Mount Kilimanjaro - a natural wonder at risk from climate change as its glaciers shrink. Photo: khanbm52, Getty Images/iStockphoto

On November 6, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) published an advance of their report “State of the world climate 2017". There it was announced that this year will be one of the three hottest years ever registered (the other two were 2015 and 2016) with ever more frequent devastating effects, such as hurricanes, floods, heat waves and droughts. January to September registered an average global temperature of approximately 1.1º C above the pre-industrial levels, and the five-year period from 2013 to 2017 will be the hottest ever registered.

The indicators of long term climate change, such as increased concentrations of carbon dioxide, the rise in sea levels and the acidification of the oceans, continue to increase while the ice of the Arctic, the extension of frozen sea in the Antarctic and the glaciers continue to decrease. The ice cap of Greenland–a key element for oceanic circulation–has lost nearly 3.6 trillion tons of ice mass since 2002.

“We have witnessed extraordinary meteorological phenomena, temperatures reaching +50º C in Asia, unprecedented hurricanes in the Caribbean and the Atlantic which have even come to Ireland, devastating monsoon flooding that has affected millions of people and an implacable drought in East Africa”, declared the General Secretary of the WMO, Petteri Taalas during the presentation of the report in the framework of the Convention on Climate Change in Bonn (COP23).

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According to the report, these extreme phenomena affect the food security of millions of people, especially the most vulnerable. In developing countries, 26 per cent of the damage and losses caused by medium and large scale storms, floods and droughts, corresponded to agriculture (crops, livestock, fishing, agriculture and forestry).

The general risk of illness or deaths related to heat waves has constantly increased since 1980, and at the present time some 30% of the world population live in climate conditions that provoke extreme and prolonged heat waves. Between 2000 and 2016, the number of people vulnerable to episodes of heat has increased by approximately 125 million.

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But not only the less developed countries have been affected. The index of accumulated cyclonic energy, that measures the total intensity and the duration of cyclones, reached this September the highest monthly intensity ever registered. In the North Atlantic, there were three hurricanes of first order and great impact that followed one another in a short interval of time: Harvey in August and Irma and Maria in September. A pluviometer located near Nederland (Texas) measured a provisional total of 1.539 mm of precipitation in seven days, which was the biggest volume ever registered by one phenomenon in the continental territory of the United States.

In mid-October, Ophelia became the first order hurricane (category 3) located over 1.000 kilometres to the Northeast of any previous hurricane of the North Atlantic. It caused important damage in Ireland, while the winds associated with this system contributed to provoke fires of great magnitude in Portugal and the Northwest of Spain.