The Swiss Times - Swiss News in English

“Red alert” – World Weather Organization paints gloomy picture

Climate change has become more visible than ever in the past year with alarming negative records. And it could get even worse, warned Omar Baddour, head of the climate monitoring department at the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), on Tuesday.

It is quite possible that 2024 will exceed the 2023 temperature record. January 2024 was already the hottest January since the beginning of industrialization, Baddour said on the occasion of the publication of the WMO report on the state of the global climate in 2023.

"The Earth is sending out a cry for help. The report (...) shows a planet on the brink," said UN Secretary-General António Guterres. WMO chief Celeste Saulo spoke of "red alert". "Climate change is about much more than temperatures. What we have seen in 2023, in particular the unprecedented warming of the oceans, the retreat of glaciers and the loss of Antarctic sea ice, is a particular cause for concern," she said.

The WMO confirmed its preliminary estimates: The globally averaged mean temperature in 2023 was around 1.45 degrees above the level before industrialization (1850-1900). Before that, 2016 was the warmest year on record, at around plus 1.3 degrees.

Second warmest year in Switzerland

According to the Federal Office of Meteorology (MeteoSwiss), 2023 was the second warmest year on record in Switzerland. In terms of temperatures, it reached a national average annual temperature of 7.2 degrees. Only 2022 was warmer.

The European climate change service Copernicus had stated that the temperature would rise by 1.48 degrees in 2023. The WMO considers data sets from Copernicus and several other renowned institutes together. As a result, its report on climate change is particularly broad-based and is regarded as a global benchmark.

Heatwaves and melting glaciers

According to the WMO, 90 percent of ocean regions experienced a heatwave over the course of the year. In addition, glaciers lost more ice than in any other year since records began in 1950, especially in North America and Europe. The extent of Antarctic sea ice has also reached a negative record. The maximum extent was one million square kilometers smaller than the previous negative record: this corresponds to an area roughly the size of Germany and France combined.

Last year, the global average sea level was higher than at any time since satellite measurements began in 1993. In the past ten years, the sea level has risen twice as fast as in the first ten years since satellite measurements began. The causes are both the melting of glaciers and sea ice as well as the thermal expansion of warmer water.

©Keystone/SDA

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