WMO: Record Arctic Sea Ice Melt And Weather Extremes Show That ‘Climate Change Is Taking Place Before Our Eyes’

This brief was originally published at the World Meteorological Organization.

The years 2001–2011 were all among the  warmest on record, and, according to the World Meteorological Organization, the first ten months indicate that 2012 will most likely be no exception despite the cooling influence of La Niña early in the year.

WMO’s provisional annual statement on the state of the global climate also highlighted the unprecedented melt of the Arctic sea ice and multiple weather and climate extremes which affected many parts of the world. It was released today to inform negotiators at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Doha, Qatar.

January-October 2012 has been the ninth warmest such period since records began in 1850. The global land and ocean surface temperature for the period was about 0.45°C (0.81°F) above the corresponding 1961–1990 average of 14.2°C, according to the statement.

The year began with a weak-to-moderate strength La Niña, which had developed in October 2011. The presence of a La Niña during the start of a year tends to have a cooling influence on global temperatures, and this year was no different. After the end of the La Niña in April 2012, the global land and ocean temperatures rose increasingly above the long-term average with each consecutive month. The six-month average of May–October 2012 was among the four warmest such periods on record.

“Naturally occurring climate variability due to phenomena such as El Niño and La Niña impact on temperatures and precipitation on a seasonal to annual scale. But they do not alter the underlying long-term trend of rising temperatures due to climate change as a result of human activities,” said WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud.

“The extent of Arctic sea ice reached a new record low. The alarming rate of its melt this year highlighted the far-reaching changes taking place on Earth’s oceans and biosphere.  Climate change is taking place before our eyes and will continue to do so as a result of the concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, which have risen constantly and again reached new records,” added Mr Jarraud.

The Arctic reached its lowest annual sea ice extent since the start of satellite records on 16 September at 3.41 million square kilometers. This was 18% less than the previous record low of 18 September, 2007. The 2012 minimum extent was 49 percent or nearly 3.3 million square kilometers (nearly the size of India) below the 1979–2000 average minimum. Some 11.83 million square kilometers of Arctic ice melted between March and September 2012.

WMO will release a 10-year report on the state of the climate, “2001-2010, A Decade of Extremes” on 4 December 2012. It was produced in partnership with other United Nations and international agencies and highlights the warming trend for the entire planet, its continents and oceans during the past decade, with an indication of its impacts on health, food security and socio-economic development.

Highlights of 2012 provisional statement


During the first ten months of 2012, above-average temperatures affected most of the globe’s land surface areas, most notably North America (warmest on record for contiguous United States of America), southern Europe, western and central Russia and northwestern Asia. Much of South America and Africa experienced above average temperatures during the first ten months of the year, with the most anomalous warmth across parts of northern Argentina and northern Africa. Much of Asia had above-average temperatures, with cooler-than-average conditions across parts of northern China. South Asia and the Pacific were also predominantly warmer than normal, except for Australia.

Extremes: Notable extreme events were observed worldwide, but some parts of the Northern Hemisphere were affected by multiple extremes during January–October 2012.

  • Heat waves: Major heat waves impacted the Northern Hemisphere during the year, with the most notable in March–May across the continental United States of America and Europe. Warm spells during March 2012 resulted in many record-breaking temperatures in Europe and nearly 15,000 new daily records across the USA. Russia witnessed the second warmest summer on record after 2010.  Numerous temperature records were broken in Morocco in summer.
  • Drought: According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, nearly two-thirds of the continental United States (65.5 percent) was considered to be in moderate to exceptional drought on 25 September  2012. Drought conditions impacted parts of western Russia and western Siberia during June and July, and Southeast Europe, the Balkans and some Mediterranean countries during summer. In China, the Yunnan and southwestern Sichuan province experienced severe drought during winter and spring. Northern Brazil witnessed the worst drought in 50 years. The April–October precipitation total, in Australia was 31 percent below normal.
  • Floods: Many parts of western Africa and the Sahel, including Niger and Chad, suffered serious flooding between July and September because of a very active monsoon. Heavy rainfall from the end of July through early October prompted exceptional floods across Nigeria. Parts of southern China experienced their heaviest rainfall in the last 32 years in April and May. Devastating monsoonal floods impacted Pakistan during September.  Central and parts of northern Argentina suffered from record rainfall and flooding in August, and parts of Colombia were affected by heavy precipitation for most of the year.
  • Snow and Extreme Cold: A cold spell on the Eurasian continent from late January to mid-February was notable for its intensity, duration, and impact. Across eastern Russia, temperatures ranged between -45°C to -50°C during the end of January. Several areas of eastern Europe reported minimum temperatures as low as -30°C, with some areas across northern Europe and central Russia experiencing temperatures below -40°C.

Tropical Cyclones: Global tropical cyclone activity for the first ten months was near the 1981–2010 average of 85 storms, with a total of 81 storms (wind speeds greater or equal than 34 knots, or 63 kilometers per hour).  The Atlantic basin experienced an above-average hurricane season for a third consecutive year with a total of 19 storms, with ten reaching hurricane status, the most notably being Sandy, which wreaked havoc across the Caribbean and the USA East Coast. Throughout the year, East Asia was severely impacted by powerful typhoons. Typhoon Sanba was the strongest cyclone, globally, to have formed in 2012. Sanba impacted the Philippines, Japan, and the Korean Peninsula, dumping torrential rain and triggering floods and landslides that affected thousands of people and caused millions in U.S. dollars in damage.

8 Responses to WMO: Record Arctic Sea Ice Melt And Weather Extremes Show That ‘Climate Change Is Taking Place Before Our Eyes’

  1. John Paily says:

    There is no time to keep debating climate change trying to protect the interest of few nations and rich business houses. It is life of the people that is in danger. Climate change is real. Do not undermine Earth Forces. We need to understand Her Design, Principle and Functioning to live in harmony with Her. She works relentlessly to sustain certain ratio of energy to matter and thus temperature within some limit. When this design and functioning is distorted beyond a point, she reacts violently. Only awakening Truth of Nature and understanding it in simplicity can save us, help us take restorative actions and develop sustainable ways to live in harmony with Nature. The more we delay to know the Truth, higher will be the suffering and price Humanity has to pay. Earth is stressing us to Evolve our thinking to New Realm
    I appeal to all organizations, Climate institutions & temples of science & religions, NGO’s, media and individuals who Love Earth and care for Humanity to look into the matter and bring it to the world. I speak to you from a life time work done as a freelancer, selflessly but assisted by His Grace. I have strived to bring out this Saving Knowledge for more than a decade relentlessly against many odds. But the temples of science and religions have failed to take note. I keep tapping with Hope that the world would awaken before the fangs of Death strikes

  2. I suspect the next surprise we will get is the rate that Greenland will melt in coming years with all the implications that this has.

  3. Jacob says:

    That is interesting, William, and quite a disconcerting prospect. As things are changing faster than science can keep up with, I believe it. I have wondered about the potential for a storm to drop water on portions of the Greenland ice sheet and what the resulting run-off/melt would be in such an event. Unfortunately it will take something like this happening to slap us into drastic action and its already too late to stop radical transformation of the planet from happening. If the oceans were higher in the distant past at the current GHG levels, then its only a matter of time until they reach such equilibrium again.

  4. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    When I peruse blogs in the local MSM on this topic, I see nothing but increasingly fanatical denial. As far as the invariably Rightwing trolls are concerned, the whole thing is simply a conspiracy by Communist scientists to destroy capitalism. All climate scientists are liars, in it for the ‘billions’ in research grants. Of course these lunatics may be astroturf professionals employed by PR companies dedicated to untruth and push polling in the service of money, but a significant proportion of strangers I meet hold similar opinions.
    That the public here still seem so thoroughly brainwashed and ignorant is no surprise. The MSM, the Murdoch abomination in particular, is ruthlessly denialist. The Government run ABC was for years a denialist centre under John Howard (who firmly believed that it was all merely a ‘socialist plot’, and probably still does)and the other Rightwing MSM feature imbecile denialism regularly, with an occasional contribution from science and rationality to give the pretense of ‘balance’. Politicians give every indication of seeing this as a third or fourth order issue, and the Opposition, led by Tony ‘Climate Change is Crap’ Abbott, have promised to destroy the carbon tax, the renewable energy target and programs and (secretly, not for disclosure before the election) every environmental program, just as their state colleagues have done in the last few years.
    So, don’t look to Australia for leadership any time soon. Doha has not registered in the MSM here, save for confident predictions that it will achieve nothing. The Federal regime sent a filing clerk, or cleaner, or some such, to represent us, which shows you their attitude. They want it to happen, there’s no doubt about it. The only question is- Why?

  5. Jack Burton says:

    The south of Greenland early this summer saw some temperatures in the low 80’s if I remember correctly. The pulse of melt water produced washed out bridges in the settlements of the area.
    I think Greenland is ripe for a rapid melt down event. Not the long, slow, gradual nearly glacial melt that scientific models predict.
    The models failed miserably as regards the arctic sea ice and I am betting they are dead wrong about Greenland as well.
    It becomes a real bore to hear long hours of droning on by scientists about how they need to study HOW the ice melts, is water flowing to the base of glaciers and speeding their advance, do melt water pools on the surface absorb sunlight speeding the melt process, etc. etc.
    Now don’t get me wrong, learning how the ice melts may be very interesting and give hints of how fast the sheet collapse. But at the same time, melting ice is melting ice, it is MORE important to show that it is melting and melting fast and directly due to CO2 accumulation in the atmosphere. How many angels can dance on the head of a pin is hardly the form of science we need at this point.
    Greenland is melting, I have seen it with my own eyes. In say late summer, the surface of the vast inland glacial ice sheets are covered with giant blue lakes and rivers of melt water. This is speeding up, it could go exponential at any time.
    Every thing points to global warming having tipped out of control, science is slow to acknowledge this and the feedback that are kicking in.
    To me, the giant campaign against science by the skeptics and their media has had the desired effect. Science has become scared and has grown silent, instead of scream a warning of impending doom they are hiding in dubious studies about how ice melts.
    The skeptics have great money, own the media and are bullying science to keep out of the business of spreading the warning.
    I too have tangled with the deniers on various comment boards associated with economic blogs and other more MSM related news sites. They are desperate bullies who are totally out of control. They can never present a rational case as to why global warming is not happening, instead they bully, lie and swear at you if you post proven science and physics as evidence for global warming. I for one am proud to be called a “f**king moron, a twilight zone idiot and a liberal lunatic f**k head, coming from the desperate deniers, I take those names as proof that I have discomforted them in their denial dream world.
    How many climate science deniers have watched “Sandy” destroy their home and flood their neighborhoods? How is that denial thing working out for them eh???

  6. Mark Shapiro says:

    ” . . . the Murdoch abomination in particular, is ruthlessly denialist. ”

    The evil that man does is horrifying. And cumulative.

  7. sanghoonmoon says:

    oecd193 member states green country: 21c 100, environment, trade policies, and services.
    Established global multinational corporations. Goal: the life and safety of citizens. Purpose of contributing to the society in which the change in water temperature in the Pacific ocean, Arctic glaciers, earthquakes, tsunamis, tsunamis, typhoons, hurricanes, sanitation, ecosystems, conservation, protection, conflict, confrontation, conflict, war, we could not turn from.

    UN, global environmental restoration goals. Environment (set in the 1950s) beautiful earth, the natural environment to future generations can inherit.
    1) by continent, by fostering education system engineers silmuwi careful screening, OECD member states fair system building: 193. Practical, sustainable silmuwi careful management into the policy,
    2) by continent, OECD 193-member incentive schemes, enable local government support foreign investment. Social overhead capital, infrastructure support, SOC
    3) between the local government and sustainable competition system: improve the quality of life of citizens, revenue / competition.
    (Government management: citizens, the sovereignty of the market for professional managers will be selected.)

  8. Spike says:

    Food pressures remain as the US, Russian, Kazakh and Ukraine/SE Europe droughts persist as at present. The UK is importing record amounts of wheat after the summer deluge and the winter wheat is apparently being affected by current wet weather.

    But as you see from the article, the commodities traders and corporates are rubbing their sweaty palms.