The World Meteorological Organisation’s (WMO) latest State of the Global Climate report, released on Friday, April 21, shows that the last eight years were the eight warmest on record, and that sea level rise and ocean warming hit new highs with record levels of greenhouse gases causing “planetary scale changes on land, in the ocean and in the atmosphere”.
The State of the Global Climate report complements the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Sixth Assessment report released a month ago, which includes data up to 2020.
The organisation says its report, released a day before this year’s Earth Day, echoes UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ call for “deeper, faster emissions cuts to limit global temperature rise to 1.5°C”.
These are a few key takeaways from the report.
Increase in average global temperatures
The average global temperature in 2022 was 1.15°C above the 1850–1900 average with the years 2015 to 2022 being the eight warmest since records began in 1850. The year 2022 was the fifth or sixth warmest year on record, despite ongoing La Niña conditions.
The year 2022 also marked the third consecutive year of La Niña conditions, a duration which has only occurred three times in the past 50 years.
Concentrations of the three main greenhouse gases – carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide – reached record highs in 2021. The annual increase in methane concentration from 2020 to 2021 was the highest on record. Real-time data from specific locations show that levels of the three greenhouse gases continued to increase in 2022.
Around 90% of the energy trapped in the climate system by greenhouse gases goes into the ocean. Ocean heat content, which measures this gain in energy, reached a new observed record high in 2022.
Despite continuing La Niña conditions, 58% of the ocean surface experienced at least one marine heatwave during 2022. In contrast, only 25% of the ocean surface experienced a marine cold spell.
Sea level rise
Global mean sea level continued to rise in 2022, reaching a new record high for the satellite altimeter record (1993–2022). The rate of global mean sea level rise has doubled between the first decade of the satellite record (1993–2002, 2.27mm per year) and the last (2013–2022, 4.62mm per year).
In East Africa, rainfall has been below average in five consecutive wet seasons, the longest such sequence in 40 years. As of August 2022, an estimated 37 million people faced acute food insecurity across the region, under the effects of the drought and other shocks.
Record-breaking rain in July and August last year led to extensive flooding in Pakistan with at least 1 700 deaths and almost 8 million people were displaced. Total damage and economic losses were assessed at $30 billion (R549bn).
While Pakistan drowned, record-breaking heat waves swept through China and Europe during the summer. In some areas, extreme heat was coupled with exceptionally dry conditions.
Excess deaths associated with the heat in Europe exceeded 15 000 in total across Spain, Germany, the UK, France and Portugal in 2022.