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United Nations Blames Humans for 2013's Extreme Weather

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The newest “Status of the Climate Report” from the United Nations states that global warming is predominately caused by human activity. The climate report for 2013 was based on data from three independent studies. These included data collected since 1850 from both the Met Office Hadley Centre and the Climatic Research Unit of the University of East Anglia (HadCRU) in the United Kingdom. Information was also obtained from the NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

The World Meteorological Organization’s (WMO) recent annual report on global climatic conditions confirmed “2013 tied with 2007 as the sixth warmest on record, continuing the long-term global warming trend.” WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud wrote in a press release: “There is no standstill in global warming. 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.”

WMO’s statement, which is an internationally recognized authoritative source of information, highlights the key climate events of 2013:

  • 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, with widespread heat waves; Australia saw record warmth for the year, and Argentina its second warmest year and New Zealand its third warmest.
  • Frigid polar air plummeted into parts of Europe and the southeast United States.
  • Angola, Botswana and Namibia were gripped by severe drought.
  • Heavy monsoon rains led to severe floods on the India-Nepal border.
  • Heavy rains and floods impacted northeast China and the eastern Russian Federation.
  • Heavy rains and floods affected Sudan and Somalia.
  • Major drought affected southern China.
  • Northeastern Brazil experienced its worst drought in the past 50 years.
  • The widest tornado ever observed struck El Reno, Oklahoma in the United States.
  • Extreme precipitation led to severe floods in Europe’s Alpine region and in Austria, Czech Republic, Germany, Poland, and Switzerland.
  • Israel, Jordan, and Syria were struck by unprecedented snowfall.
  • 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.

“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. But many of the extreme events of 2013 were consistent with what we would expect as a result of human-induced climate change. We saw heavier precipitation, more intense heat, and more damage from storm surges and coastal flooding as a result of sea level rise,” said Jarraud.

The Status of the Climate Report contains a peer-review case study into Australia’s record warmth in 2013. The study by scientists at the ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science University of Melbourne, Australia, used nine state-of-the-art global climate models to investigate whether changes in the probability of extreme Australian summer temperatures were due to human influences.

“Comparing climate model stipulations with and without human factors shows that the record hot Australian summer of 2012/13 was about five times as likely as a result of human-induced influence on climate and that the record hot calendar year of 2013 would have been virtually impossible without human contributions of heat-trapping gases, illustrating that some extreme events are becoming much more likely due to climate change,” the study concluded.

According to the United Nations, “[h]uman influence has been detected in warming of the atmosphere and the ocean, in changes in the global water cycle, in reductions in snow and ice, in global mean sea level rise, and in changes in some climate extremes. This evidence for human influence has grown since AR4. It is extremely likely that human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century.”

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

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