You just lived through the warmest decade on record – and it's only going to get hotter

Global warming shows no signs of letting up.

The years from 2015 to 2019 and from 2010 to 2019 “are, respectively, almost certain to be the warmest five-year period and decade on record,” the World Meteorological Organization said in a report released Tuesday.  

“Since the 1980s, each successive decade has been warmer than the last,” the agency said.

2019 concludes a decade of exceptional global heat, retreating ice and record sea levels driven by greenhouse gases from human activities, according to the WMO.

“If we do not take urgent climate action now, then we are heading for a temperature increase of more than 3 degrees Celsius (5.4 degrees Fahrenheit) by the end of the century, with ever more harmful impacts on human well-being,” WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas said. “We are nowhere near on track to meet the Paris Agreement target.”

Concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere – the greenhouse gas most responsible for global warming – hit a record level of 407.8 parts per million in 2018 and continued to rise in 2019. Carbon dioxide lasts in the atmosphere for centuries and the ocean for even longer, thus locking in climate change, the WMO said.

And 2019 itself is on course to be the second- or third-warmest year on record, with 2016 still holding the all-time temperature record.

This year was hotter than average in most parts of the world, including the Arctic.

“In contrast, a large area of North America has been colder than the recent average,” the WMO said.

Taalas said that “on a day-to-day basis, the impacts of climate change play out through extreme and 'abnormal' weather. And, once again in 2019, weather and climate-related risks hit hard.

"Heatwaves and floods which used to be 'once in a century' events are becoming more regular occurrences. Countries ranging from the Bahamas to Japan to Mozambique suffered the effect of devastating tropical cyclones. Wildfires swept through the Arctic and Australia."

The WMO’s annual report, which brings together data from numerous national weather agencies and research organizations, also highlighted the impacts of climate change, including declining sea ice and rising sea levels, which reached their highest level this year since high-precision measurements began in 1993.

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