Scientists warn we are in 'uncharted territory' due to climate change

A new report shows Arctic has "witnessed the Polar equivalent of a heatwave" at least three times this winter

Scientists warn we are in 'uncharted territory' due to climate change

The peak of an iceberg made of blue ice at the Kongsfjorden glacier front in the Arctic Ocean near Ny-Alesund on Spitsbergen, Norway. Picture by: Jens B├╝ttner/DPA/PA Images

The UN's World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) has confirmed that 2016 was the hottest year on record, while other extreme climate conditions have continued into this year.

According to the WMO's new report, 2016 - the same year world leaders signed the historic Paris Agreement on climate change - was 1.1 °C above the pre-industrial period. That number is 0.06 °C above the previous record set in 2015.

Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere again reached record highs, while sea surface temperatures were the warmest on record. Warm oceans also contributed to "significant coral bleaching and mortality".

2016 also saw severe drought in southern Africa and significant flooding in China's Yangtze basin, while extreme heat was recorded in areas such as south Asia and parts of the Middle East.

As well as the impact of long-term climate change, 2016 was significantly warmer as a consequence of a major El Niño event.

El Niño also meant global sea levels 'rose very strongly', while an 'unprecedented anomaly' - more than 4 million km2 below average - was recorded in the global sea ice level in November.

The WMO report also warns that extreme climate conditions are continuing into this yer.

The Arctic has experienced the 'Polar equivalent of a heatwave' at least three times this winter.

Thousands of warm temperature records were broken or tied in the US last month, while other parts of the world - such as North Africa and the Arabian peninsula - were unusually cold in the first months of this year.

World Climate Research Programme Director David Carlson said: “Even without a strong El Niño in 2017, we are seeing other remarkable changes across the planet that are challenging the limits of our understanding of the climate system.

"We are now in truly uncharted territory," he added.

Image: WMO