WMO climate changeThere is no question that the earth is warming up and that it is due to human activity, according to the report delivered to the UN Climate Change conference that opened in Durban, South Africa (November 28). The results of the report by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) were made public simultaneously in Durban and Geneva. 

WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud said the role of his organization is “to provide the scientific knowledge to inform action by decision makers…Our science is solid and it proves unequivocally that the world is warming and that this warming is due to human activities,” he said.

Global temperatures in 2011 were said to be the tenth highest since the start of records in 1850.  This was despite the weather phenomenon known as La Niña which has a cooling and drying influence – as versus El Niño which causes excessive rainfall, floods and rising tides.  The 13 warmest years have all occurred in the 15 years since 1997, the report notes.

Many scientists believe that warmer weather and warmer water is driven by carbon emissions which cause global warming during certain years in which there are large El Niño events. Strong La Niña years typically bring between 0.10° to 0.15°C cooler temperatures than preceding and following years.

“Concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere have reached new highs," said Jarreau, adding that average global temperatures are rapidly approaching levels consistent with a rise of 2.4°C.  “Scientists believe (this) could trigger far reaching and irreversible changes in our Earth, biosphere and oceans,” he said. The extent of Artic sea ice in 2011 was the second lowest on record and its volume was also the lowest.

The WMO report was provisional in that it only measured the period January-October 2011 during which time the combined sea and land air temperature was 0.41°C above the 1961-1990 annual average of 14°C.

Jarraud said scientists have noticed that “weak La Niña conditions have re-developed in recent weeks but have not yet approached the intensity of those in late 2010 and early 2011.” Climate disasters during this 10 month period included severe drought in Africa, major floods in Pakistan, Central and South America, extreme weather events in the US and unusually dry periods in Europe and eastern China.

How much of an impact the WMO report will have on the complex deliberations in Durban is difficult to gauge but at least the conferees cannot say they didn’t know.

(Photo © DR)