Decade ending 2019 likely to be the hottest on record, says WMO

wmo report

Exceptional global heat driven by greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions mean this decade will most likely go down as the warmest on record, according to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), which released its provisional statement on the State of the Global Climate on Tuesday.

global warming

The WMO also finds that 2019 is on track to be the second or third warmest year in history, with the global average temperature during January through October, roughly 1.1 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial era.


“If we do not take urgent climate action now, then we are heading for a temperature increase of more than 3°C by the end of the century, with ever more harmful impacts on human wellbeing”, said WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas.

“We are nowhere near on track to meet the Paris Agreement target,” he added, referring to the 2015 international accord to limit global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.

The closing decade has been the warmest on record, with negative impacts on human health, data collected by the WMO and the World Health Organization (WHO) shows.

The new reports were presented on December 3, 2019 at the 25th United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP25) in Madrid.


According to WMO, global average temperatures for the five-year (2015-2019) and 10-year (2010-2019) periods will be the highest ever recorded. With temperature above the pre-industrial period around 1.1°C between January and October 2019 is set to be the second or third warmest year on record.

Concentrations of GHG in the atmosphere, which hit a record level of 407.8 parts of CO2 per million in 2018, continued to rise this year. Ocean heat is also at record levels and seawater is 26% more acidic than at the start of the industrial era, as daily sea-ice extent in the Arctic and Antarctica saw record lows in recent months.

CO2 and sea levels on the rise

sea level rise

The report finds that concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere, which hit record levels last year, also continued to rise in 2019.


The WMO said: Sea level rise has increased due to melting of the ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica, while ocean heat is at record levels, with vital marine ecosystems being degraded.

Several UN agencies provided input to the report, which also details how weather and climate have an impact on health, food security, migration, ecosystems and marine life.

Climate variability and extreme weather events are among key drivers of the recent rise in global hunger, which now affects more than 820 million people.

“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”, said Taalas.

arctic ice

“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.”

heat waves

Health at risk

Record-setting temperatures are increasingly putting health at risk, according to input provided by the WHO. Major heatwaves in Japan in late July to early August caused more than 100 deaths and some 18,000 hospitalizations, for example.

About half the global population is now threatened by dengue as changes in climatic conditions are making it easier for the Aedes mosquito species to transmit the dengue virus.

Southern Africa has experienced extensive dry periods due to a delay in the start of the seasonal rains, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reports. As cereal output is forecasted to be around eight per cent below the five-year average, some 12.5 million people in the region will face food insecurity.

Climate-related disasters are also increasing displacement. Figures from the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, reveal more than 10 million new internal displacements were recorded during the first half of the year, with seven million forced to move as a result of disasters such as cyclones and flooding. New displacements associated with weather extremes could more than triple, to around 22 million by the end of the year.

The provisional report was released as governments meet in Madrid COP25.

WMO will publish the final Statement on the State of the Climate, with complete 2019 data, in March.

Key messages from the report

Global atmospheric concentrations of GHG reached record levels in 2018 with carbon dioxide (CO2) reaching 407.8±0.1 parts per million, 147% of pre-industrial levels.

Measurements from individual sites indicate that concentrations of CO2 continued to increase in 2019.

Methane and nitrous oxide, both important greenhouse gases, also reached record levels in 2018.

Global mean temperature for January to October 2019 was 1.1±0.1°C above pre-industrial levels. 2019 is likely to be the 2nd or 3rd warmest year on record.

The past five years are now almost certain to be the five warmest years on record, and the past decade, 2010-2019, to be the warmest decade on record. Since the 1980s, each successive decade has been warmer than any preceding decade since 1850.

The ocean absorbs over 90% of the heat trapped in the Earth system by rising concentrations of greenhouse gases. Ocean heat content, which is a measure of this heat accumulation, reached record levels again in 2019.

As the ocean warms, sea levels rise. This rise is further increased by melting of ice on land, which then flows into the sea. Short-term trends in sea level are modulated by transitions between La Niña and El Niño, a cooling and warming, respectively of the central and eastern Pacific Ocean surface temperature.

Sea level has increased throughout the altimeter record, but recently sea level rose at a higher rate due partly to melting of ice sheets on Greenland and Antarctica. In autumn 2019, the global mean sea level reached its highest value since the beginning of the high-precision altimetry record (January 1993).

Over the decade 2009-2018, the ocean absorbed around 22% of the annual emissions of CO2, attenuating atmospheric concentrations. However, CO2 reacts with seawater and decreases its pH, a process called ocean acidification. Observations from open-ocean sources over the last 20 to 30 years show a clear decrease in average pH at a rate of 0.017–0.027 pH units per decade since the late 1980s.

2019 saw low sea-ice extent both in the Arctic and Antarctic. The daily Arctic ice extent minimum in September 2019 was the second lowest in the satellite record and October has seen further record low extents.

In Antarctica, variability in recent years has been high with the long-term increase offset by a large drop in extent in late 2016. 2019 saw record low extents in some months.

Tropical cyclone Idai was one of the strongest known cyclones to make landfall on the east coast of Africa. There was widespread destruction from wind damage and storm surge in coastal Mozambique, especially in the city of Beira, whilst severe flooding extended to inland regions of Mozambique and parts of Zimbabwe. Tropical Cyclone Idai played a role to the destruction of close to 780 000 ha of crops in Malawi, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe, further undermining a precarious food security situation in the region. The cyclone also resulted in at least 50 905 displaced persons in Zimbabwe, 53 237 in southern Malawi and 77 019 in Mozambique.

Extreme heat conditions are taking an increasing toll on human health and health systems. Greater impacts are recorded in locations where extreme heat occurs in contexts of aging populations, urbanization, urban heat island effects, and health inequities.

In 2018, a record 220 million vulnerable persons over age of 65 were exposed to heatwaves, compared with the average for the baseline of 1986-2005.

In addition to conflicts, insecurity and economic slowdowns and downturns, climate variability and extreme weather events are among the key drivers of the recent rise in global hunger and one of the leading causes of severe food crises. After a decade of steady decline, hunger is on the rise again –over 820 million people suffered from hunger in 2018. The situation is most severe in sub-Saharan Africa, where the number of undernourished people increased by more than 23 million between 2015 and 2018, particularly in countries affected by conflict.

Among 33 countries affected by food crises in 2018, climate variability and weather extremes were a compounding driver together with economic shocks and conflict in 26 countries and the leading driver in 12 of the 26.

More than 10 million new internal displacements were recorded between January and June 2019. Of these, 7 million were triggered by hydrometeorological events including Cyclone Idai in southeast Africa, Cyclone Fani in south Asia, Hurricane Dorian in the Caribbean, and flooding in Iran, the Philippines and Ethiopia, generating acute humanitarian and protection needs.

Among natural hazards, floods and storms have contributed the most to displacement recorded so far in 2019, followed by droughts. Asia and the Pacific remain the regions most prone to disaster displacement due to both sudden and slow-onset disasters. For instance, more than 2 million people were evacuated in Bangladesh, the second most disaster-prone country in the region, due to Cyclone Bulbul in November, and more than 2 million in China due to Typhoon Lekima in August.

The global mean temperature for the period January to October 2019 was around 1.1 ± 0.1 °C above pre-industrial levels (1850-1900). 2019 is likely to be the second or third warmest year on record. The WMO assessment is based on five global temperature data sets, with four of the five global temperature data sets putting 2019 in second place. The spread of the five estimates is between 1.04 °C and 1.17 °C.

The IPCC Special Report on 1.5°C (IPCC SR15) concluded that “Human-induced warming reached approximately 1°C (likely between 0.8°C and 1.2°C) above pre-industrial levels in 2017, increasing at 0.2°C (likely between 0.1°C and 0.3°C) per decade (high confidence)”. An update of the figures to 2019 is consistent with continued warming in the range 0.1-0.3°C/decade.2016, which began with an exceptionally strong El Niño, remains the warmest year on record. Weak El Niño conditions in the first half of 2019 may have made a small contribution to the high global temperatures in 2019, but there was no clear increase in temperature at the end of 2018/early 2019 as was seen in late 2015/early 2016.Based on the year-to-date figures, the past five years, 2015 to 2019, are almost certain to be the five warmest years on record. The five-year (2015-2019) and ten-year (2010-2019) averages are, respectively, almost certain to be the warmest five-year period and decade on record5. Since the 1980s, each successive decade has been warmer than any preceding decade since 1850.




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