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expert reaction to WMO’s annual statement on the state of the global climate

The World Meteorological Organisation released figures indicating that global warming has yet to return to levels seen in the 1990s, and that 2012 is set to be the ninth hottest since records began.

 

Prof Sir Brian Hoskins, Director of the Grantham Institute for Climate Change at Imperial College London, said:

“There are always weather records somewhere in the world, but this summary reminds us what a dramatic year it has been globally as well as in the UK. For me the drop in Arctic sea ice area and the persistent drought in the US stand out, the former because it gives a striking picture of global warming in action, and the latter because of its impact on world food supply.”

 

Dr Dave Reay, Senior Lecturer in Carbon Management, University of Edinburgh, said:

“The stand-out indicator of the ‘State of the Climate’ in 2012 has to be the astonishing drop in sea ice cover in the Arctic. Reaching a minimum extent far below that predicted by most models, this global parasol atop our world was left tattered by increased warming – a warming trend that will be accelerated still further as these vast expanses of reflective ice are replaced by tanker-filled open water.”

 

Dr Ed Hawkins, National Centre for Atmospheric Science based at the University of Reading, said:

“There’s still two months to go, but it looks like 2012 will be among the warmest years on record, in common with other years over the last decade. The January to October period of 2012 was the 9th warmest since records began in 1850. So, temperatures across the world in 2012 continue the trend of a world that is warming in response to increasing greenhouse gases.

“Notable extremes during 2012 include very warm spring and summer conditions over the US and Canada, accompanied in the US by severe drought conditions. Europe also saw record breaking temperatures during a warm and dry spell in March, which followed exceptionally cold temperatures over much of Europe during February.

“For the UK, while it might not seem like it, the year to date has been slightly warmer than the 1961-90 normal, but it was a year of two halves!  The UK saw a warm and dry start, especially in March, but since April, temperatures have been close to or below normal. Rainfall over the UK has generally been above average since June, in fact June to August 2012 was the second wettest on record (behind 1912). This meant the UK had relatively dry conditions when we might have expected rain and wet conditions during the summer when we might have expected some sunshine.  I’ve calculated that rainfall conditions during 2012 were the second “weirdest” on record in this regard (see http://www.climate-lab-book.ac.uk/2012/how-wierd-has-uk-weather-been-in-2012). Research at the University of Reading suggests this behaviour, with a dry spring and wet summer, could be linked to a major warming of the North Atlantic Ocean that occurred back in the 1990s. A transition back to a cooler North Atlantic, favouring drier summers in the UK and northern Europe, is likely and could occur rapidly. Exactly when this will happen is difficult to predict.”

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