World Meteorological Organization issues ‘red alert’

World Meteorological Organization issues ‘red alert’

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) in the last week of March 2024, issued a ‘red alert’ about a “high probability” of 2024 becoming another record-breaking year for extreme heat. It has been reported that this year is witnessing runaway ocean temperatures to unseasonable warmth on land. United Nations (UN) chief Antonio Guterres has said that it showed, “a planet on the brink”.

Every major global climate record was broken last year and 2024 could be worse, the WMO said last month, with its chief voicing particular concern about ocean heat and shrinking sea ice.

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

“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 added.

WMO’s head of climate monitoring, Omar Baddour, told reporters there was a “high probability” that 2024 would set new heat records, underlining that the year after an El Nino was typically warmer still. El Nino is a climate phenomenon occurring every few years due to different surface temperatures in the Pacific Ocean. Stronger El Nino(s) are usually associated with slight increase in global temperatures.

The U.N. weather agency also included in its annual State of the Global Climate report mentioned that average temperatures hit the highest level in 174 years of record-keeping by a clear margin, reaching 1.45 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

Though it is not known if records for Bhutan will increase or not in 2024, the National Center for Hydrology and Meteorology (NCHM), feels that Bhutan would also witness breaking records with warmer temperature. As per the NCHM, the average climatological data in Bhutan from 1996 – 2023, August are the hottest months, followed by September, July and June. The average monthly maximum temperature for the hottest month is about 26 degree Celsius.

Meanwhile, officials from Weather and Climate services Division said that the 2023 was an El Nino year. The probabilistic ENSO forecast based on mid-March initial conditions shows neutral conditions from April 2024 which will most probably become La Nina through early2025. Hence, it may or may not increase depending on the varying climate phenomenon.

Weather and Climate services Division said the increase in heat can be attributed to climate change and inter annual variability such as El Nino. 2023 was El Nino year. The below normal rainfall also could havecontributed to the observed heat in 2023.

Further, the UN’s annual State of the Climate report revealed that global temperatures reached unprecedented levels last year, breaking heat records as heatwaves ravaged oceans and glaciers continued to shrink at alarming rates. The report also warned that 2024 is likely to be even hotter.

Reacting to the report, UN chief Antonio Guterres said it showed, “a planet on the brink”.

“Earth’s issuing a distress call,” he said in a video message, pointing out that “fossil fuel pollution is sending climate chaos off the charts”, and warning that “changes are speeding up”.

The “red alert” comes amidst global warming, attributing it to record-breaking rises in greenhouse gases, land and water temperatures, and the rapid melting of glaciers and sea ice observed last year.

“Earth’s issuing a distress call,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres reiterated, adding that the latest State of the Global Climate report shows a planet on the brink. Fossil fuel pollution is sending climate chaos off the charts.

By Sangay Rabten, Thimphu