Chilliest Spring in years is cold comfort as CO2 emissions rise: WMO

8 June 2021

Confirmation that Europe has just had its chilliest Spring in years is cold comfort for the planet, amid rising greenhouse gas levels which will bring negative impacts for generations to come, UN weather experts said on Tuesday.

“Europe had its coldest spring since 2013; the average March-May temperature was 0.45 degrees Celsius (C) below the 1991-2020 average,” said Clare Nullis, spokesperson for the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).

“Just because this year has got off to a relatively cool start by recent standards, does not mean that we’ve hit the pause button on climate change”, Ms. Nullis added, reiterating a recent WMO warning that there is a 90 per cent chance that one of the next five years will be the warmest on record.

Global averages still high

According to data from the European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service (ECMWF), Europe’s cold May contrasted with the global average temperature for the month, which was 0.26°C higher than the 1991-2020 mean.

Temperatures were well above average over western Greenland, north Africa, the Middle East and northern and western Russia while below-average May temperatures were reported over the southern and central United States, parts of northern Canada, south-central Africa, most of India, eastern Russia, and eastern Antarctica.

Emissions latest

Reiterating how carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions continue to be a key driver of climate change, the WMO spokesperson relayed the latest data from the world's benchmark atmospheric monitoring station in Hawaii, the Mauna Loa Observatory, issued by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Scripps Institution of Oceanography on Monday evening.

“According to the new figures, the May monthly average figures of CO2 in the atmosphere at Mauna Loa - this one particular site - was 419.13 parts per million; that’s up and it’s quite a considerable rise, that’s up from 417.31 in May of last years.”

And because CO2 has “such a long lifetime in the atmosphere”, Ms. Nullis explained that “many generations” would likely endure a series of natural shocks linked to climate change: “rising temperatures, more extreme weather, melting ice, rising sea level and all the associated impacts.”

Ocean blues

In a message for World Oceans Day 2021, on 8 June, the WMO official also underscored that the latest CO2 emissions data signalled increasing acidification of the seas and, linked to this, a drop in the amount of CO2 that can be absorbed.

“These CO2 figures which I just mentioned are going to have a very real and very serious impact on the ocean; and this is because and this is because the ocean absorbs more than 23 per cent of CO2 emissions.”

Ocean acidification and marine heatwaves have already weakened coral reefs which shield coastlines and are vital marine ecosystems, WMO noted.

In the last 30 years, between 25 and 50 per cent of the world’s live coral have been lost “and it is predicted that by mid-century we could lose functional coral reef ecosystems around most of the world”, according to a UNEP/FAO report issued for World Environment Day.

In a tweet on Tuesday WMO highlighted the risks to the “blue economy” which is estimated to be worth $3 to $6 trillion a year, providing livelihoods for more than six billion people.

 

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