Extreme weather from climate change shows no sign of abating: report

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A new federal summary of the planet’s climate from last year takes snippets of bad news from the past 18 months and weaves it into a sobering report on global warming.

Long-term warming trends continue around the world, even when interrupted by temporary cooler weather phenomena, such as the persistent La Nina in the Pacific, the 2021 State of the Climate report released on Wednesday concluded. .

“The data presented in this report is clear – we continue to see more compelling scientific evidence that climate change is having global impacts and shows no signs of abating,” said Rick Spinrad, Administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The report is prepared by NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information, with contributions from scientists around the world.

Given the historic floods, drought and heat that have continued this year, Spinrad said ‘the climate crisis is not a future threat, but something we have to deal with today’ .

He and Paul Higgins, associate director of the American Meteorological Society, said the world should use the report to become more resilient to climate extremes.

“If we take it seriously and use it wisely, it can help us thrive on a planet that’s getting smaller and smaller relative to the impact of our activities,” Higgins said.

The news, however, wasn’t all bad. La Nina lowered sea surface temperatures in the Pacific and helped suppress other global temperatures. Additionally, the South Pole experienced its coldest winter on record, despite warmer temperatures elsewhere in Antarctica.

Here are some of the key takeaways from the report:

Global average temperatures and sea levels continue to rise

The global warming trend has continued and, for the 10th consecutive year, global mean sea level has set a new record.

  • Scientific analyzes have shown that global surface temperatures are around 0.5 degrees above the 1991-2020 average.
  • According to the weather society, the past seven years have been the warmest since records began in the mid to late 1800s.
  • Sea level was 3.8 inches above the 1993 average, an increase of two tenths of an inch from 2020. Federal scientists say that every inch of sea level rise increases the risk of flooding at high tide in cities along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts.

Is the globe prepared? Extreme heat waves may be our new normal, thanks to climate change.

Some nations have seen dramatic impacts

The extreme temperatures set many new records, but also some low records.

  • China and New Zealand had their hottest years on record.
  • In Kyoto, Japan, one of the full bloom dates for one of its native cherry tree species was the earliest on record, dating back to 801.
  • Europe experienced its second hottest summer on record, setting a new high temperature of 119.8 degrees in Sicily on August 11, 2021.
  • In Spain, set a new record in January, when the temperature at Clot del Tuc de la Llança in the Pyrenees fell to minus 29.4 degrees.

Learn more about past bloom dates: Festivals forced to adapt as climate change disrupts historic weather patterns

The polar regions have suffered

Glaciers around the world continued to melt for the 34th consecutive year, while the temperature permafrost in many areas has reached record levels.

  • in June 2021, Canada’s Northwest Territories reached an all-time high of 103.8 degrees, the highest temperature on record north of the 60th parallel.
  • A station on the Greenland Ice Sheet recorded the first rainfall since recording began 33 years ago. It was too cold at the top of the ice cap to rain. Scientists say warming conditions are melting more of the ice sheet there, raising sea levels.

Weather extremes reigned

Some regions experienced new levels of drought, while others recorded record rainfall. Experts say both reflect global warming.

  • Nearly a third of the world’s landmass experienced drought conditions in August 2021, a new record.
  • East Africa has seen the lowest rainfall on record along the equator, the third failed rainy season in a row, threatening the food security of more than 20 million people.
  • In Zhengzhou, China, 7.9 inches of rain fell in a single hour on July 20, the highest one-hour rainfall ever reported for the mainland. Scientists say warmer air holds more water and contributes to extreme rainfall.
  • In October in Rossiglione, Italy, 29.2 inches of rain fell in just 12 hours, a new European record.

USA TODAY is investigating: How a summer of extreme weather reveals a startling change in the way rain falls in America.

Greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise

The two big greenhouse gases – carbon dioxide and methane – have reached new records. Climate scientists say reducing emissions is key to preventing further warming.

  • Carbon dioxide has reached an average annual concentration of 414.7 parts per million, up 2.6 parts per million from 2020. This is the fifth highest growth rate since monitoring began in 1958.
  • Methane continued its upward trend with an increase of 18 parts per billion, the largest increase since measurements began.
  • Nitrous oxide also reached 334.3 parts per billion, the third highest level since 2001.

Listen to precipitation trends: What if you could hear climate change? Listen to music based on a century of rainfall data

Dinah Voyles Pulver covers climate and environmental issues for USA TODAY. She can be reached at [email protected] or @dinahvp on Twitter.

Teresa H. Sadler