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The United Nations weather agency is warning that the next five years could be the hottest ever recorded on Earth and that the world might also temporarily hit a key threshold for global warming, driven by the combination of greenhouse gas emissions and an El Niño weather pattern.
What’s the big deal?
-Nearly 200 countries signed the Paris Agreement in 2016, pledging to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, or about 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit, over pre-industrial levels.
-Scientists say staying below that number could help the world mitigate some of the worst impacts of climate change, including increased health issues related to heat, more extreme periods of rainfall and drought, warmer ocean temperatures and sea level rise.
-The World Meteorological Organization issued a report Wednesday predicting a 66% likelihood that the annual average near-surface global temperature will cross the 1.5 degrees Celsius threshold for at least a year at some point between 2023 and 2027.
-The WMO also says it’s 98% likely that at least one of the next five years, and the period as a whole, will be the warmest on record.
-The warning Wednesday factors in the natural weather phenomenon El Niño, which NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center gives a 90% chance of developing this summer.
Weather.com meteorologist Kait Parker adds:
-“The El Niño-Southern Oscillation, what we call El Niño for short, is a climate pattern that changes every two to seven years. It refers to a warming (El Niño) or cooling (La Niña) of the waters in the equatorial Pacific off the coast of Peru in South America.”
-“When we are in an El Niño pattern, temperatures don’t just run warmer in this part of the ocean – we typically see an uptick in our global average temperature that has historically contributed to our warmest years on record. We have been in a multi-year La Niña pattern, which has helped curb our global temperature average. When you average these fluctuations out over decades, we still see a pattern of global warming. These shorter-term climate changes merely cause brief dips or increases in temperature within the larger trend.”
-“El Niño years can actually cause short-term cooling in parts of the globe, like the United States, where summers can be slightly cooler than average. On a global scale, however, we see warmer temperatures between our atmosphere and oceans. Additionally, we typically see higher wind shear over the Caribbean during El Niño hurricane seasons, potentially suppressing storm development closer to land.”
Important to note:
-“This report does not mean that we will permanently exceed the 1.5 degrees Celsius level specified in the Paris Agreement, which refers to long-term warming over many years. However, WMO is sounding the alarm that we will breach the 1.5 degrees Celsius level on a temporary basis with increasing frequency,” according to WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas.
Want to know more?
-Why Are Heat Waves Getting Worse?
-Summer Temperature Outlook
-The Areas Most At Risk For Extreme Heat Impacts
Jan Childs writes climate change, space, news and feature stories for weather.com.
The Weather Company’s primary journalistic mission is to report on breaking weather news, the environment and the importance of science to our lives. This story does not necessarily represent the position of our parent company, IBM.