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Climate change is getting worse

Brigitte Osterath ibr
August 11, 2017

Last year has broken climate records: It has been the warmest year since records began and extreme weather events have increased around the world. Two recent reports confirm, once again, that climate change is happening.

Heat wave in Spain
Image: Getty Images/C.Quicler

The results of the annual checkup on our planet do not bring good news. On average, 2016 was even warmer than 2015 - previously the warmest year. These are the findings of the State of the Climate, published on today by the American Meteorological Society.

In the 298-page report, the United States National Ocean and Atmospheric Authority (NOAA) compiled climate data from hundreds of research groups from all over the world.

"The increase in CO2 concentration was the largest in the nearly six-decade observational record," NOAA wrote.

It amounted in average to 402.9 parts per million (ppm) - 3.5 ppm more than in 2015. For the first time, the limit of 400 ppm has been exceeded.

Unfortunate new records

Last year, the temperature of the Earth's surface was on average 0.45 to 0.56 degrees Celsius higher than the average temperature from the 1981 to 2010, which was used for comparison.

Together with global warming, El Niño caused catastrophic droughts in Central America, Brazil, Southern Africa, India and North Australia - while at the same time bringing heavy rains to the Pacific Northwest in the United States, Southeast China and parts of South America.

Cyclone Fiji Islands
The cyclone Wilson devastated houses and killed people in the Fiji Islands Image: Reuters/J. Dayal

Tropical cyclones - that is, cyclones in the Indian Ocean and the Southern Pacific - have also become more common. In 2016, there were a total of 93 cyclones, including the cyclone Winston in the Fiji Islands in February. The average for the years 1981 to 2010 was 82 cyclones.

By 2016, global sea levels have risen 82 millimeters above 1993 levels (established as the zero line). Over the past two decades, sea levels have increased by an average of 3.4 millimeters per year.

The Antarctic experienced its warmest year, with two degrees above the average temperatures. On March 24, the sea ice spread over 5.61 million square miles (14.54 million square kilometers), 7.2 percent less than the average. However, it was still at the same level as in 2015 - but the sea ice in the Antarctic has further decreased compared to 2015.

The data show that the year 2016 was "very extreme and it is a cause for concern," Jessica Blunden, climate scientist at the NOAA, said in the report.

Climate change also affects US

US President Donald Trump does not tire of announcing that he does not believe in climate change, and he has set himself to undoing Barack Obama's environmental policy, which had recently focused on the fight against climate change.

So some US media were excited to report on a draft government report that concludes that the US is already experiencing climate change.

The Climate Science Special Report - compiled by NASA and NOAA, among 13 other federal agencies - is part of a national climate report Congress requests every four years. The final draft has been online since January. By August 18, the US government will have to sign off on it - including Trump himself.

"Evidence for a changing climate abounds, from the top of the atmosphere to the depths of the oceans," the report reads.

Heat wave New York City
New York City suffered an extreme heat wave in August 2016Image: Getty Images/D.Angerer

The study has examined all US regions - and researchers have reached the conclusion they all are affected by climate change. According to the report, the volume of precipitation has increased by about 4 percent since the beginning of the 20th century.

Parts of the West, Southwest and Southeast in the US are drying out - while the Midwest is becoming wetter. The surface temperatures in Alaska have risen alarmingly - twice as fast as the world average, the researchers found.

However, researchers were not in agreement regarding a 2011 heat wave in Texas.

Some conclude that local weather phenomena, together with a strong La Niña, were the cause of high temperatures in Texas. Others contend that climate change makes such extreme temperatures in Texas 20 times more likely.

But all researchers agree: Through all the symptoms of climate change our planet is currently experiencing, the common denominator is that humans are to blame.