UN Issues ‘Red Alert’ as Global Temperatures Hit Record Highs in 2023

Every major global climate record was broken last year, and 2024 could be much worse, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said on Tuesday, with its director expressing particular alarm about ocean temperatures and decreasing sea ice.

According to the United Nations meteorological agency’s annual State of the Global Climate report, average temperatures have reached their highest level in 174 years of record-keeping, rising 1.45 degrees Celsius over pre-industrial levels.

Ocean temperatures have also hit their highest point in 65 years of data, with over 90% of the seas experiencing heatwave conditions this year, according to the World Meteorological Organization, threatening food systems.

“The WMO community is sounding the Red Alert to the world,” said WMO Secretary-General Celeste Saulo, who assumed the position in January.

“What we witnessed in 2023, especially with the unprecedented ocean warmth, glacier retreat and Antarctic sea ice loss, is cause for particular concern.”

She later told reporters that ocean warming was especially worrying because it was “almost irreversible” and could take millennia to rectify.

“The trend is really very worrying and that is because of the characteristics of water that keep heat content for longer than the atmosphere,” she went on to say.

Climate change, caused by the use of fossil fuels, combined with the formation of the natural El Nino climate pattern, propelled the planet into record territory in 2023.

Omar Baddour, WMO’s head of climate monitoring, told reporters that there was a “high probability” that 2024 would establish new heat records, noting that the year following an El Nino is normally even warmer.

According to Tuesday’s report, Antarctic sea ice has decreased significantly, with the peak level measuring 1 million km2 less than the previous record – an area nearly similar to Egypt’s size.

This trend, along with ocean warming, which causes water to expand, has resulted in a more than doubling of the rate of sea-level rise during the last decade compared to the 1993-2002 period, the report stated.

According to the analysis, ocean heat was focused in the North Atlantic, with temperatures averaging 3 degrees Celsius higher than typical in late 2023. Warmer ocean temperatures have a negative impact on sensitive marine ecosystems, and many fish species have gone north to colder waters.

Saulo, an Argentine meteorologist who has committed to develop global warning systems for climate disasters, expressed her hope that the report would increase awareness of the “critical need to scale up the urgency and ambition of climate action.”

“That’s why we spoke about the Red Alert because we must care for the people and how they will suffer from these more frequent, more extreme events,” she said in a press conference. “If we do nothing, things will become worse and that will be our responsibility.”

Written by PH

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