The World Meteorological Organization is out with its annual climate report, which concludes that "the dramatic impact of climate variability and climate change continued to be felt all over the world" for the 2013 calendar year.
It's business as usual, in other words, for our rapidly changing climate. While continuing to assert that no one weather event can either prove or disprove climate change, the WMO makes it clear that last year -- with its heavier rains, more intense heat and more severe coastal flooding and storm-related damage -- marked the continuance of a "long-term warming trend." It confirmed that 2013 tied with 2007 as the sixth-warmest on record; 13 of the 14 warmest-ever years have occurred during the 21st century.
“Naturally occurring phenomena such as volcanic eruptions or El Niño and La Niña events have always contributed to frame our climate, influenced temperatures or caused disasters like droughts and floods," WMO secretary-general Michel Jarraud said in a statement. "But many of the extreme events of 2013 were consistent with what we would expect as a result of human-induced climate change." For example, the report contains a study that found human influence on the climate made Australia's record heat during the summer of 2012-13 five times as likely.
Among the year's other extremes, the report lists:
• Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda), one of the strongest storms to ever make landfall, devastated parts of the central Philippines
• Surface air temperatures over land in the southern hemisphere were very warm, resulting in widespread heatwaves; Australia saw record warmth for the year, Argentina its second warmest year and New Zealand its third warmest
• Frigid polar air swept across parts of Europe and the south-eastern United States
• Severe drought gripped Angola, Botswana and Namibia
• Heavy monsoon rains led to severe floods on the India-Nepal border
• Abundant rains and flooding impacted north-eastern China and eastern RussianFederation
• Heavy rains and floods affected Sudan and Somalia
• Major drought affected southern China
• North-eastern Brazil experienced its worst drought in the past 50 years
• The widest tornado ever observed hit El Reno, Oklahoma in the United States
• Extreme precipitation led to severe floods in the Alps and in Austria, the Czech
Republic, Germany, Poland and Switzerland
• Israel, Jordan and the Syrian Arab Republic were struck by unprecedented snowfall
• An extra-tropical windstorm affected several countries in western and northern Europe
• Greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere reached record highs
• The global oceans reached new record high sea levels
• The Antarctic sea-ice extent reached a record daily maximum
“There is no standstill in global warming,” Jarraud said. "The warming of our oceans has accelerated, and at lower depths. More than 90 percent of the excess energy trapped by greenhouse gases is stored in the oceans. Levels of these greenhouse gases are at record levels, meaning that our atmosphere and oceans will continue to warm for centuries to come. The laws of physics are non-negotiable.” The question now, which other groups are beginning to ask, is how to negotiate a less extreme future.