London, March 21 (IANS) The record-breaking heat that made 2016 the hottest year recorded so far has continued into 2017, pushing the world into “truly uncharted territory”, according to the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO).
The WMO’s assessment of the climate in 2016, published on Tuesday, reports unprecedented heat across the globe, exceptionally low ice at both poles and surging rise in sea levels, the Guardian reported.
Global warming is largely being driven by emissions from human activities, but a strong El Nino — a natural climate cycle — has added to the heat in 2016.
The El Nino is now waning, but the extremes continue to be seen, with temperature records tumbling in the US in February and polar heatwaves pushing ice cover to new lows, the WMO report said.
“Even without a strong El Nino in 2017, we are seeing other remarkable changes across the planet that are challenging the limits of our understanding of the climate system. We are now in truly uncharted territory,” said David Carlson, director of the WMO’s world climate research programme.
Last year saw the hottest global average among thermometer measurements stretching back to 1880, reports the Guardian.
But scientific research indicates the world was last this warm about 115,000 years ago and that the planet has not experienced such high levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere for 4 million years.
This year already saw temperature records continue to tumble, in the US where February was exceptionally warm, and in Australia, where prolonged and extreme heat struck many states.
According to the report, global sea level rise surged between November 2014 and February 2016, with the El Nino event helping the oceans rise by by 15mm.
That jump would have taken five years under the steady rise seen in recent decades, as ice caps melt and oceans get warmer and expand in volume.