Decade of 'exceptional' heat ends with one of hottest years on record

3 December 2019, 08:17 | Updated: 3 December 2019, 12:59

This year has been one of the hottest on record, the World Meteorological Organisation has said.

The UN body says the planet has seen a decade of "exceptional" heat - and since 2015, each year has broken records for being the warmest.

Data from January to October reveals temperatures have been 1.1C above pre-industrial levels, putting 2019 on course to be the second or third-hottest year ever.

A study on the state of the global climate has also warned that sea levels are rising faster, ice is melting and that "once in a century" heatwaves and floods are now becoming more regular occurrences.

Extreme events, such as cyclones, hurricanes and flooding, have forced millions of people from their homes.

There have been droughts in many parts of the world and there have also been two major heatwaves in Europe in late June and July - with a new temperature record of 38.7C (101.7F) set in the UK.

The WMO's provisional report has highlighted some of the impacts of rising temperatures.

Floods

Parts of Britain saw torrential rain last month, which caused major flooding in Yorkshire, the East Midlands, Devon and Cornwall.

Northern Argentina, Uruguay and southern Brazil were also hit by flooding after very wet conditions in January, while Iran was badly affected in late March and early April.

Areas of the US, northern Canada, northern Russia and southwest Asia also saw abnormally high rainfall, the Indian monsoon was delayed, and drought-affected parts of east Africa were hit by floods in October and early November.

Drought

From the middle of the year onwards, Indonesia and parts of the Mekong basin in Asia saw exceptionally dry conditions - as did inland eastern Australia, with the country experiencing the driest January to October since 1902.

Central America saw similar conditions until heavy rain hit in October, while Chile's capital Santiago saw less than a quarter of long-term average rainfall for the year to 20 November.

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Heatwaves

Europe sweltered in two heatwaves in late June and July, with national records for the UK, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg. France, which had the hottest weather, saw temperatures reach 46C (114.8F).

Australia also had an exceptionally hot summer and had its hottest-ever January, with record-breaking temperatures of 46.6C (115.9F) in Adelaide.

Wildfires

There were almost 31,000 separate fires recorded across the Amazon in August alone, according to Brazil's National Institute for Space Research, while South America overall saw the most wildfires since 2010.

Severe drought in Indonesia and neighbouring countries led to the most significant fire season since 2015 - and there were more fires than usual in Siberia and Alaska.

Australia has also recently faced devastating bushfires which left several people dead and more than 300 homes destroyed. Dramatic footage showed an injured koala being carried away from danger.

Tropical cyclones

Tropical Cyclone Idai, which ripped through Mozambique before hitting Zimbabwe and Malawi, has been described as "one of the worst weather-related disasters" in the southern hemisphere.

Slow-moving Dorian caused huge destruction in the Bahamas, while Typhoon Hagibis triggered severe flooding in Japan in October.

Health

Hundreds of people died during heatwaves in France over the summer and dozens also died in intense heat in Japan, where it was reported tens of thousands were treated in hospital for heat-related illnesses.

It is also claimed climatic changes are making it easier for mosquitoes to transmit dengue fever, which is on the rise.

Food security

An estimated 12.5 million people in South Africa are facing severe food insecurity, with extensive dry periods and delays to seasonal rains set to result in cereal crop yields being cut. The situation is also deteriorating in parts of Ethiopia, Somalia, Kenya and Uganda.

In Afghanistan, 13.5 million people are facing a lack of food after the worst flooding in a decade, with many provinces still recovering from severe drought in 2018.

Population displacement

More than 10 million people were forced to move somewhere else within their own country between January and June 2019.

Seven million of those displaced were forced to leave their homes as a result of disasters such as Cyclone Idai in southeast Africa, and flooding in Iran.

The number of newly displaced people as a result of weather extremes could more than triple to about 22 million by the end of this year.

COP25 begins

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned climate change poses a growing threat to human health, but claims most countries are not doing enough to tackle it.

The report comes as world leaders, negotiators and activists gather in Madrid for the United Nation's 25th annual climate change conference - also known as COP25 - which began on Monday.

Swedish teenage activist Greta Thunberg is also expected to attend after arriving by catamaran, in the port of Lisbon following a three-week voyage across the Atlantic from the US.

She hitched a ride from an Australian family on their 15m (48ft) environmentally friendly yacht after she was left stranded when this week's summit was moved from Chile to Spain - due to political unrest in the South American country.