2015 fries global heat records + five unnerving climate change charts

2015-11-27 07:28 - Selene Brophy
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Cape Town - The global average surface temperature in 2015 is likely to be the warmest on record and to reach the symbolic and significant milestone of 1° Celsius above the pre-industrial era. This is due to a combination of a strong El Niño and human-induced global warming, according to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).

The years 2011-2015 have been the warmest five-year period on record, with many extreme weather events - especially heatwaves - influenced by climate change, according to a WMO five-year analysis.

"The state of the global climate in 2015 will make history as for a number of reasons," said WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud.

READ: Extreme SA weather as snow and heatwave forecast 


'All bad news for the planet'

- Levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere reached new highs.

- in the Northern hemisphere spring 2015 the three-month global average concentration of CO2 crossed the 400 parts per million barrier for the first time.

- 2015 is likely to be the hottest year on record

- ocean surface temperatures are at the highest level since measurements began

- The 1°C Celsius threshold will be crossed

- A powerful El Niño event, which is still gaining in strength.

'We have a choice, future generations will not'


WATCH: World's hottest year: Effects of the El Nino of 2015 on the rest of the world explained

"Greenhouse gas emissions, which are causing climate change, can be controlled. We have the knowledge and the tools to act," said Jarraud.

" The powerful El Niño event is influencing weather patterns in many parts of the world and fuelled an exceptionally warm October. The overall warming impact of this El Niño is expected to continue into 2016," said Jarraud.

WMO issued its provisional statement on the status of the climate in 2015, and an additional five-year analysis for 2011-2015, to inform negotiations at the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris.

'1°C above the pre-industrial age'

A preliminary estimate based on data from January to October shows that the global average surface temperature for 2015 so far was around 0.73 °C above the 1961-1990 average of 14.0°C and approximately 1°C above the pre-industrial 1880-1899 period.

This temperature tendency indicates that 2015 will very likely be the warmest year on record.South America is having its hottest year on record, as is Asia (similar to 2007), and Africa and Europe their second hottest.

MAP: Northern parts of SA bracing for highs of over 42°C


' the world’s warmest five-year period on record'

According to preliminary figures as of the end of September 2015, 2011-15 was the world’s warmest five-year period on record, at about 0.57°C (1.01°F) above the average for the standard 1961-90 reference period. It was the warmest five-year period on record for Asia, Europe, South America and Oceania, and for North America. WMO compiled the five-year analysis because it provides a longer-term climate signal than the annual report.

Highlights of 2015:

El Niño:

The full effect of the strong 2015 El Niño on global temperature is likely to continue after El Niño peaks. However, other impacts are already being felt.  In early October, NOAA declared that record global ocean temperatures had led to a global coral bleaching event. This began in the North Pacific in the summer of 2014 and spread to the South Pacific and Indian Ocean in 2015. 

Ocean heat and sea level rise

The oceans have been absorbing more than 90% of the energy that has accumulated in the climate system from human emissions of greenhouse gases, resulting in higher temperatures and sea levels. In the first nine months of 2015. The northeast Pacific, much of the Indian Ocean and areas in the north and south Atlantic were significantly warmer than average. Areas to the south of Greenland and in the far southwest Atlantic were significantly colder than average.



During the spring of 2015 in South Africa, record high temperatures were exceeded on a regular basis. A major heatwave affected India in May and June, with average maximum temperatures exceeded 42°C widely and 45°C in some areas. In southern Pakistan temperatures exceeded 40 °C in June. 

Drought and Rainfall 

South Africa is currently experiencing a drought with five of our nine provinces severely affected.  Other dry areas included Central America and the Caribbean, northeast South America including Brazil, parts of central Europe and Russia, parts of Southeast Asia, Indonesia and southern Africa. In Western North America, long-term drought conditions continued. Basins across the west depend on snowpack as a water resource. On April 1, the snow water equivalent was 5% of normal.

Areas of high rainfall included: southern areas of the USA, Mexico, Bolivia, southern Brazil, southeast Europe, areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan. Heavy rain in January led to flooding in Malawi, Zimbabwe and Mozambique, and in February it affected Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia. 2015 saw exceptional seasonal rainfall totals in several parts of Burkina Faso and Mali.  

Tropical Cyclones

Globally, a total of 84 tropical storms formed between the start of the year and 10 November, compared to the 1981-2010 annual average of 85. Hurricane Patricia which made landfall in Mexico on 24 October was the strongest hurricane on record in either the Atlantic or eastern North Pacific basins, with maximum sustained wind speeds of 320 km/hour.  

Four named storms formed in the Northern Indian Ocean. Rainfall associated with tropical storm Komen contributed to severe flooding and landslides in Myanmar. Bangladesh also suffered from flash floods and landslides. Yemen suffered from unprecedented back-to-back cyclones in early November, with Chapala becoming first tropical cyclone to make landfall, followed by Megh.

Arctic and Antarctic

Since consistent satellite records began in the late 1970s, there has been a general decline in Arctic sea ice extent throughout the seasonal cycle. In 2015, the daily maximum extent, which occurred on 25th February 2015, was the lowest on record at 14.54 million km2. The minimum sea ice extent was on 11th September when the extent was 4.41 million km2, the fourth lowest in the satellite record.

In the southern hemisphere, the daily maximum extent of 18.83 million km2 was recorded on 6th October in Antarctica. This is the 16th highest maximum extent in the satellite record. The minimum extent, recorded on 20 February, was 3.58 million km2, the 4th highest on record.