Sunday, December 27, 2015
December was remarkable for high temperature anomalies in Europe and North America. Many maximum temperature records and high minumum temperature records were broken in the leadup to and on Christmas day, particularly in North America.
2015 is set to be the hottest year on record, but already the UK Met Office has projected that 2016 will likely be hotter still.
In New York City shorts and T-shirts were still being worn, and tomatoes were still ripening. Many people highlighted the irony of turning on air-conditioning at Christmas. Some even pondered having a christmas barbecue or pool party.
In my travels through Europe this year I remarked on the Halloween heat in UK, France on the road to #Paris2015 #Cop21 #climate talks. But a cold spell in Paris did finally arrive for a few days in mid-November before temperatures climbed again.
Of course in Australia christmas barbecues and picnics are common, but Australia is already burning up with a record high December heatwave across south eastern Australia, and an intense bushfire on christmas day destroying 116 houses along Victoria's iconic Great Ocean Road. These towns are swelled at this time of year by many holiday makers, and evacuations were done to avoid loss of life.
While Australia reverses direction with regard to emissions. The latest Australian Greenhouse Gas Inventory update, cynically published on Christmas Eve to bury it from public scrutiny, shows that Australia's emissions, excluding land use change, increased by 0.8 per cent to June 2015. If you include land use change and deforestation, the emissions jump to 1.3 percent. This reverses the 1.4 per cent decrease in emissions recorded the previous year.
Much of the warmth and extreme events can be linked with the current strong El Nino underway and a change in the Pacific Decadal oscillation to a positive phase, and current behaviour of the northern jetstream and Arctic Vortex. But underlying this are rapid warming in the Arctic and much warmer oceans and atmosphere through anthropogenic climate change. It is also likely that climate change is increasing the frequency and intensity of El Nino Southern Oscillation.
And here is the irony. The world just signed an agreement in Paris at the UN Climate Conference to limit global temperatures to well below 2 degrees Celsius and aim for 1.5 degrees, yet the climate action plans submitted by governments would have the planet warm from between 2.7 to 3.5 degrees C. Part of the agreement is an ambition mechanism whereby every 5 years national targets are reviewed so that emissions are cut further.
Will it work? Only if we pressure governments to escalate regulatory action, and rapidly. Time to join the climate movement to become part of the solution.
Find below my storify on the European and North American winter Christmas heatwave and anomalously warm temperatures: