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2014 poised for hottest year on record: UN
by Staff Writers
Lima (AFP) Dec 03, 2014

Warming effects of CO2 felt just a decade after release
London (UPI) Dec 3, 2014 - A common narrative in the discussion about global warming is that polluters are simply passing the problem onto the next generation. The implied message being that any negative effects of today's CO2 emissions won't be realized until decades later.

But new research suggests today's polluters will witness the atmospheric and environmental damage they've wrought within their lifetime -- and then some. The warming effects of CO2, it turns out, can be felt just a decade after the gas's release into the atmosphere. And these effects, researchers at the Carnegie Institute for Science report, can last more than a century.

Likewise, the new research means efforts made to curb carbon emissions, like those adopted by the German government Wednesday, will have an effect within ten years.

"Amazingly, despite many decades of climate science, there has never been a study focused on how long it takes to feel the warming from a particular emission of carbon dioxide, taking carbon-climate uncertainties into consideration," lead study author Katharine Ricke said in a press release.

The work of Ricke and her colleagues was published this week in Environmental Research Letters, a journal published by the Institute of Physics.

Scientists used two prominent climate change prediction models to look at the effects of the release of single unit of CO2 and found that its maximum warming potential was reached just 10.1 years later. The reason there is any lag at all is that for the first decade of atmospheric warming, the ocean is working to absorb that heat. But as the ocean warms, it heats the atmosphere too. And after ten years, any mitigating role the ocean plays has been canceled out.

"Our results show that people alive today are very likely to benefit from emissions avoided today and that these will not accrue solely to impact future generations," Ricke added. "Our findings should dislodge previous misconceptions about this timeframe that have played a key part in the failure to reach policy consensus."

This year may end as the hottest on record, the UN's weather agency said Wednesday as it recounted a tale of rising seas, crippling droughts and floods since January.

"The year 2014 is on track to be one of the hottest, if not the hottest, on record," the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) reported on the sidelines of the UN climate talks in Lima.

Provisional data for 2014 shows that 14 out of the 15 warmest years on record have all occurred in the 21st century, it added.

"There is no standstill in global warming," WMO chief Michel Jarraud said in a press statement.

"What we saw in 2014 is consistent with what we expect from a changing climate. Record-breaking heat combined with torrential rainfall and floods destroyed livelihoods and ruined lives," he said.

"What is particularly unusual and alarming this year are the high temperatures of vast areas of the ocean surface, including in the northern hemisphere."

The global average air temperature over land and sea surface for January to October was about 0.57 degrees Celsius (1.03 degrees Fahrenheit) above the average of 14 C for a reference period from 1961-1990, the WMO said.

It was 0.09 C above the average for the decade 2004-2013.

"If November and December maintain the same tendency, then 2014 will likely be the hottest on record, ahead of 2010, 2005 and 1998," the WMO said.

"This confirms the underlying long-term warming trend."

The interim report for 2014 aims at guiding 195 countries striving for a global climate change pact, due to take effect by 2020.

At the deal's centre is a roster of national pledges to roll back carbon emissions -- invisible, heat-trapping gases released by burning coal, oil and natural gas.

"Our climate is changing and every year, the risks of extreme weather events and impacts on humanity rise," said Christiana Figueres, head of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) staging December 1-12 talks in Lima to draft the outlines of the pact.

It must be signed in Paris in December 2015, and will seek to meet a UN target to limit warming to 2 C over pre-industrial levels.

The WMO said the sea surface temperature for the year so far was the highest on record -- about 0.45 C above the 1961-1990 average.

It was particularly high in the tropical Pacific, approaching, but not triggering, the threshold for the destructive El Nino weather phenomenon.

For January to June, ocean heat measured to depths of 700 and 2,000 metres (2,275 and 6,500 feet) were both the highest on record, reflecting the ocean's role in absorbing heat from the warming atmosphere.

- Heatwaves, floods, drought -

Other highlights from the statement:

- Heatwaves occurred in South Africa, Australia and Argentina in 2014, while exceptional cold waves occurred in the United States in winter, in Australia in August and in Russia in October.

-- Sea levels in early 2014 reached a record high for the time of year, driven by thermal expansion as the oceans warmed and runoff from melting icesheets and glaciers.

-- Flooding struck Britain, parts of the Balkans, Argentina, Russia and the southeastern and eastern US. In August and September, millions of people were hit by flooding in northern Bangladesh, northern Pakistan and India.

-- Severe drought gripped the southern part of northeastern China, and parts of the Yellow River and Huaihe River basins failed to get even half of the summer average rainfall.

Worrying rainfall deficits were reported in parts of central America, central Brazil and the city of Sao Paulo, as well as parts of California, Nevada and Texas and the Australian states of New South Wales and Queensland.

-- On the positive side, tropical cyclone activity has been below normal, so far. As at November 13, 72 tropical storms were recorded, fewer than the 1981-2010 average of 89.

On November 20, the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said global temperatures in October, as well as for the entire year so far, were the hottest on average since record-keeping began in 1880.

The Nobel-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), in a massive report finished this year, said warming on current emission trends was on track for roughly double the UN target.

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