REPORT: ‘2016 Was the Warmest Year on Record’ and More

By Yessenia Funes Mar 22, 2017

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) released its annual State of Global Climate report yesterday (March 21) with a clear message: Climate change is worsening, the planet is warming more now than ever, and communities are already feeling it.

“Globally averaged sea-surface temperatures were also the warmest on record; global sea levels continued to rise; and Arctic sea-ice extent was well below average for most of the year,” wrote WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas in the foreword.

Per the report, the global average temperature set a new record of 1.1 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial period levels. Climate justice activists have argued that 1.5 degrees Celsius becomes a tipping point. With just a half degree more—at 2 degrees Celsius—global sea levels rise would 10 centimeters more by 2100, according to a study published last year in Earth System Dynamics. That’s more than enough to threaten indigenous low-lying island communities already feeling the impact. The WMO report explains that the western Pacific has seen some of the highest increase in sea levels between 1993-2015.

Most of the report covers global impacts, including melting glaciers, severe weather events and major economic losses. In the U.S. specifically, the economy was hit hard from flooding in North and South Carolina, Georgia and Florida. Per the report, these are the areas in the U.S. seeing a major impact from climate change due to flooding.

The report goes on:

Extreme flooding affected parts of the southern United States, especially Louisiana, from 9 to 15 August [2016]. Seven-day rainfall totals in the worst-affected areas ranged from 500 mm to 800 mm, with 432 mm recorded in 15 hours in Livingston on 12 August. Some rivers peaked at levels up to 1.5 m above previous records. Thirteen deaths were reported and more than 50 000 homes and 20 000 businesses were damaged or destroyed. Total losses were estimated at US$ 10 billion.

Other U.S. impacts noted in the study include wildfires, thunderstorms and snowstorms. Gatlinburg, Tennessee saw 14 deaths from the most destructive wildfire in modern history last year. Two dramatic thunderstorms in Texas caused more than $5 million in damage. These storms often bring flash floods. The Northeast had the fourth most-impactful snowstorm in the region since 1950 in January 2016.

See the complete 28-page report here.