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The world was in high fever in 2020

World Meteorological Organization (WMO) released its annual State of the Global Climate for 2020 on April 20, 2021. Irrespective of the widespread surmise that lockdowns and shutdowns to curb the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic would lower emissions and reduce the impact on climate, the report has scary findings.

According to the report:

Extreme weather combined with COVID-19 in a double blow for millions of people in 2020. However, the pandemic-related economic slowdown failed to put a brake on climate change drivers and accelerating impacts.

It reiterates what many expected:

2020 was one of the three warmest years on record, despite a cooling La Niña event. The global average temperature was about 1.2° Celsius above the pre-industrial (1850-1900) level. The six years since 2015 have been the warmest on record. 2011-2020 was the warmest decade on record.

The WMO report listed five key indicators of irreversible changes in the global climate:

Greenhouse Gases: Notwithstanding the economic slowdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic, emission of major greenhouse gases increased in 2019 and 2020.  More to it, the level of greenhouse gas emission will be higher in 2021.

Concentrations of the major greenhouse gases continued to increase in 2019 and 2020. “Globally averaged mole fractions of carbon dioxide (CO2) have already exceeded 410 parts per million (ppm), and if the CO2 concentration follows the same pattern as in previous years, it could reach or exceed 414 ppm in 2021,” finds the report. 

Oceans: In 2019, the oceans had the highest heat content on record. In 2020, it has broken this record further. “Over 80 per cent of the ocean area experienced at least one marine heatwave in 2020. The percentage of the ocean that experienced “strong” marine heat waves (45 per cent) was greater than that which experienced “moderate” marine heat waves (28 per cent),” according to the the report. 

Sea-level rise: Since record-taking started in 1993 using the satellite altimeter, sea-level has been rising. However, there was a blip in summer of 2020 that recorded a drop in sea level. The WMO report says it is due to the La Niña induced cooling. “Sea level has recently been rising at a higher rate partly due to the increased melting of the ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica.” 

The Arctic and the Antarctica: In 2020, the Arctic sea-ice extent came down to second lowest on record. “The 2020 Arctic sea-ice extent minimum after the summer melt was 3.74 million square kilometre, marking only the second time on record that it shrank to less than 4 million sq km,” according to the State of Global Climate 2020 report. In a large region of the Siberian Arctic, temperatures in 2020 were more than 3°C above average, with a record temperature of 38°C in the town of Verkhoyansk.

“The Antarctic sea-ice extent remained close to the long-term average. However, the Antarctic ice sheet has exhibited a strong mass loss trend since the late 1990s. This trend accelerated around 2005, and currently, Antarctica loses approximately 175 to 225 Gt per year, due to the increasing flow rates of major glaciers in West Antarctica and the Antarctic Peninsula,” the report added.

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