climate change

The UK Met Office predicts that 2020 could be among the warmest years ever recorded


Photo credit: Andrea Booher via Wikimedia.

By Anders Lorenzen

2019 is a year which set a host of climate change and extreme weather records. But it could be eclipsed by 2020 according to the UK national weather service, The Met Office.

Their annual global temperature forecasts predict that 2020 will continue the trajectory of temperatures continuing to increase year on year as the world struggles to get to grips with reducing emissions. 

In 2015 the Earth’s global temperatures first exceeded 1.0 °C above the pre-industrial period (1850-1900).

However, 2016 was a significant El Niño year and it is still set to be the warmest year on record, but 2020 could come close to matching it, not being an El Niño year. 

The Met Office forecasts the global average temperature for 2020 to be between 0.99 °C and 1.23 °C – with an average estimate of 1.11 °C – above the pre-industrial average period from 1850–1900. Since 1850, 2016 was the warmest year on record with an average estimate of 1.16 °C above the same baseline.

The organisation says that the rising levels of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are driving the 2020 temperature forecast. Their head of long-range prediction, Prof Adam Scaife says: “Natural events – such as El Niño-induced warming in the Pacific – influence the climate system, but in the absence of El Niño, this forecast gives a clear picture of the strongest factor causing temperatures to rise: greenhouse gas emissions.” 

Dr Nick Dunstone, who is an expert in climate variability at the Met Office, explained that the forecast is based on the key drivers of the global climate, but can’t take into account unpredictable events such as a large volcanic eruption which could cause temporary cooling.  He said: “Although the Earth has warmed by about 1.0 °C on average since pre-industrial times, this isn’t spread evenly over the surface of the globe as much of the warming is occurring in the Arctic and over landmasses.” 

Their forecast for 2019, an average of 1.10 °C which the Met Office issued at the end of 2018, closely correlates with observations so far this year. 

The Met Office research fellow, Dr Doug Smith, said: “The forecast for 2020 would place next year amongst the six warmest years on record, which would all have occurred since 2015. All of these years have been around 1.0 °C warmer than the pre-industrial period.”

The Met Office’s global temperature series takes an average of three global temperature data sets: HadCRUT; NOAAGlobalTemp; and GISTEMP.

Since August this year, Australian firefighters have been battling extreme and intense wildfires, which rank as the most extreme wildfires the country has ever faced, and which many are blaming on the continuing rise of global emissions. Many people worry, that without significant efforts to reduce emissions, the extreme weather events will continue to get even more extreme with huge consequences.

Earlier this month, The Global Carbon Project confirmed that in 2019 global carbon emissions continued to increase though by a slower pace than in 2018.

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