Hurricanes in Hawaii, droughts in Africa, and heatwaves all over the world weren’t just weird weather — they were symptoms of global climate change, and they all happened during the hottest five years on record.
The World Meteorological Organization (WMO), a United Nations agency, released a report Tuesday declaring the five years from 2011 to 2015 the hottest five-year period on record globally and linking extreme weather events during the period to climate change.
Those five years were an average of 0.57ºC warmer than the average for the reference period used (1961 to 1990), and 2015 was the hottest, with an average temperature 0.76ºC above the reference period’s average. In fact, 2015’s average temperature was more than 1ºC above pre-industrial levels. For comparison, the Paris climate agreement hopes to cap the global temperature increase to just 2ºC above pre-industrial levels.
Temperature changes weren’t even around the globe. The waters around Antarctica, for example, actually got colder, while the Arctic warmed up the most. Antarctic sea ice coverage was above the average for 1981-2010.
While there were extreme weather events the WMO could definitively tie to climate change caused by humans, not all the extreme weather between 2011 and 2015 can be blamed on us. California’s long drought isn’t our fault, and neither was the flooding in Central Europe back in 2013. But we can blame ourselves for making some areas more vulnerable to extreme weather, like the area affected by Hurricane Sandy.
The WMO will release another report about 2016’s climate so far on November 14, just in time for the UN’s Marrakech Climate Change Conference in Morocco. This year is on track to be even hotter than 2015, so don’t count on that report being too optimistic.