According to the World Meteorological Organization, 2016 is likely going to be the hottest year on record, meaning that 16 of the 17 hottest years recorded have happened in the 21st Century.
This is based on comparisons to the years between 1961 and 1990, which are used as a baseline because of their relative stability. The year 2016 has had some things working against it—primarily El Niño, which happened in late 2015 and early 2016. This phenomenon has resulted in a hotter and drier period than expected.
On average, this years temperatures are 1.2°C above pre-industrial levels, and about 0.88°C above the 1961-1990 averages. Temperatures in Arctic Russia were 6°C to 7°C higher than normal, and sub-arctic Russia, Canada, and Alaska were at least 3°C warmer than normal. This is a significant increase, and it has resulted in a lot of problems.
In addition to Hurricane Matthew, which was the worst humanitarian crisis in Haiti since the 2010 earthquake, extreme weather conditions have been causing economic and life loss throughout the world.
While El Niño is to blame for part of this, its effects faded some time ago. The rest of our problems are due to long-term environmental effects such as greenhouse gas concentration, low levels of Arctic sea ice, and significant and early melting in Greenland. Sea levels are rising, which is making tropical storms worse.
“WMO is working to improve monitoring of greenhouse gas emissions to help countries reduce them,” says WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas. “Better climate predictions over timescales of weeks to decades will help key sectors like agriculture, water management, health and energy plan for and adapt to the future.”
Events such as devastating droughts and floods, which used to happen “once in a generation,” are now happening much more frequently.
Taalas says that in addition, the organization is working to create more impact-based weather forecasts and early warning systems to help strengthen disaster early warning and climate service capabilities, especially in developing countries.
Unless we take some serious steps toward reducing the effects of human activity on the global climate and environment, these things are going to continue, if not increase in frequency and damage. It stands to reason, too, that next year will break some records as well.