Dec 14, 2021 - Energy & Environment

Three loud climate warning signals

Data: NOAA; Chart: Axios Visuals

This week is bringing several fresh signals of a warming planet and the deepening perils that come alongside higher temperatures.

1. This year is a lock (at least 99% chance) to rank among the 10 hottest in temperature records that date back to 1880, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said.

  • 2021 has at least a 95% chance to rank as the sixth-warmest year.
  • The average surface temperature in January-November was 0.84°C (1.51°F) above the 20th-century average, the sixth-warmest such period on record, NOAA said. November alone was the fourth-warmest.
  • Every year in the top 10 has occurred this century, and the top five have all been in 2015 or later.

2. The latest temperature data arrived as scientists presented alarming new findings about the stability of a critical Antarctic floating ice shelf that helps prevent a massive glacier from sliding into the sea.

  • Researchers have discovered new fractures in the Thwaites Eastern Ice Shelf, which acts like a cork in a wine bottle, buttressing the melting Thwaites Glacier. Thwaites already contributes up to 4% of the annual global sea-level rise.
  • The findings, gained from on-site observations and unveiled at a scientific conference in New Orleans, suggest the ice shelf could break up in as little as five years, allowing inland ice to flow faster into the sea.
  • Axios' Ivana Saric has more on the threat the "doomsday glacier" poses.

3. Finally, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) on Monday formally recognized a new Arctic temperature record: 38°C (100.4°F) in the Russian town of Verkhoyansk reached on June 20, 2020.

  • The record is one of a series that "sound the alarm bells about our changing climate," said WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas.
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