It will get worse: the world weather organization warned of extreme temperatures

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Governments must prepare for more extreme weather events and record temperatures in the coming months, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) warned as it announced the onset of the warming El Niño phenomenon.

As CNN explains, El Niño is a natural climatic event in the tropical Pacific that causes above-average sea surface temperatures and has a major impact on weather around the globe, affecting billions of people.

“The onset of El Niño will significantly increase the likelihood of breaking temperature records and trigger even more extreme heat in many parts of the world and in the ocean,” said WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas.

This declaration is called “a signal to governments around the world to mobilize preparatory measures to limit the impact on our health, our ecosystems and our economy.”

To save lives and livelihoods, governments must put in place early warning systems and prepare for further damaging weather events this year, according to the head of the World Meteorological Organization.

The past three years have been among the warmest on record, even with the accompanying El Niño La Niña phase, which is characterized by cooler-than-average ocean temperatures.

The “double whammy” of a very strong El Niño and human-caused warming from burning fossil fuels resulted in 2016 being the hottest year on record, according to WMO, the United Nations weather, climate and water agency.

But the first El Niño in seven years, driven by human-induced global warming, could push 2023 or 2024 to beat the 2016 heat record, the WMO said.

The World Meteorological Organization said there is a 90% chance of El Niño continuing into the second half of 2023 at moderate strength.

Along with increased ocean warming, El Niño events are typically associated with increased precipitation in parts of southern South America, the southern United States, the Horn of Africa and Central Asia. But it could also exacerbate severe droughts, heat waves and wildfires in Australia, Indonesia, parts of South Asia, Central America and northern South America.

Other impacts include dangerous tropical cyclones in the Pacific Ocean and massive bleaching of fragile coral reefs.

In India, the largest rice-producing country, El Niño could dampen the monsoon that brings the rains the country needs to fill aquifers and grow crops.

A recent study found that this year’s El Niño could also slow US economic growth, potentially affecting everything from food prices to winter clothing sales. The study linked a $5.7 trillion loss in global income to the 1997-98 El Niño and a $4.1 trillion loss to the 1982-83 El Niño.

Global warming could also temporarily exceed 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, a key tipping point after which the likelihood of extreme floods, droughts, wildfires and food shortages could skyrocket.

Countries committed in the Paris climate agreement to limit global warming to well below 2 degrees – and preferably to 1.5 degrees Celsius – compared to pre-industrial temperatures. But the world has already experienced a warming of about 1.2 degrees Celsius as humans continue to burn fossil fuels and produce pollution that causes the planet to warm up.

According to the WMO, there is a 66% chance that the annual mean global surface temperature between 2023 and 2027 will temporarily be more than 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels for at least one year.

“This does not mean that in the next five years we will exceed the level of 1.5 degrees Celsius specified in the Paris Agreement, since this agreement talks about long-term warming over many years,” said WMO Director of Climate Services Chris Hewitt. “However, this is yet another wake-up call or early warning that we are not yet moving in the right direction to limit warming within the targets set in Paris in 2015 to significantly reduce the impact of climate change.”

Many climate records have already been broken in 2023: high temperatures, unusually hot oceans, record high levels of carbon dioxide pollution and record low levels of Antarctic ice.

Across Asia, Europe and the Americas, early and extended heat waves this year have killed people, animals and crops, raised concerns about food security and water shortages, and set the stage for unprecedented wildfires.

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