The world’s oceans grew to their warmest and most acidic levels ever recorded in 2021, as melting ice sheets helped push sea levels to new heights, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) says.
Oceans saw the most notable extremes as the WMO outlined the turmoil caused by climate change in its annual State of the Global Climate report, released on Wednesday.
“Our climate is changing before our very eyes. The heat trapped by man-made greenhouse gases will warm the planet for many generations,” WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas said.
The WMO report follows the latest United Nations climate analysis, which warned that humanity must drastically reduce its greenhouse gas emissions, or the world’s climate must become increasingly catastrophic.
#Climate change affects everyone, and everything on the planet Greenhouse gas levels, ocean heat, and acidification, sea level rise at record levels in 2021We can still limit the damage#ClimateActionNow for the sake of future generations#StateofClimatehttps://t.co/IRebfExc6e pic .twitter.com/RHGmKJhNXM
— World Meteorological Organization (@WMO) May 18, 2022
The WMO said that levels of climate-warming carbon dioxide and methane in the atmosphere in 2021 surpassed previous records.
Global average temperatures last year were 1.11 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial average, as the world moves closer to the 1.5 degrees threshold above which warming effects are expected to become drastic.
Last year’s temperatures were somewhat subdued compared to 2020 due to the cooling effects of La Nina in the Pacific, although the year still ranked in the top seven warmest years on record.
“It is only a matter of time before we see another warmest year on record,” Mr. Taalas said.
Benchmark monitoring station Mauna Loa just reported a RECORD weekly average of 421.13 parts per million atmospheric CO2, per @CO2_earth and @NOAA Greenhouse gases are a key #climate change indicator in WMO #StateofClimate report to be released tomorrow.📈 🌍 https://t .co/885ISninm0 pic.twitter.com/vWdRsEisEE
— World Meteorological Organization (@WMO) May 17, 2022
Oceans contribute much to warming and emissions.
The bodies of water absorb about 90 percent of Earth’s accumulated heat and 23 percent of carbon dioxide emissions from human activity.
The report said the ocean has warmed significantly faster over the past 20 years, reaching a record high in 2021, and is expected to warm even more.
That change would likely take centuries or millennia to undo, it noted.
The ocean is also now the most acidic in at least 26,000 years, as it absorbs and reacts with more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
Sea levels have risen 4.5 centimeters in the past decade, with the annual increase from 2013 to 2021 is more than double that of 1993 to 2002.
The WMO also listed individual extreme heat waves, wildfires, floods, and other climate-related disasters around the world, noting reports of more than $100 billion ($142 billion) in damage.
The continental United States experienced its hottest summer, with hundreds of recorded heat-related deaths.
The Dixie fire burned 3,900 square miles, making it the largest wildfire ever in California.