World Climate 2022, an overview

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N. Munal Meitei
Environmentalist, email- nmunall@yahoo.in

Climate in 2022 was just like the left foot in the ice and the right in a boiling water and taking the average. Global warming is undoubtedly increasing to extremes – heat waves, droughts and floods, sometimes bewildering the whole world.

Climate change amped up weather extremes, smashing temperature records, sinking river and lake to historic lows and raising rainfall to devastating highs. Droughts set the stage for wildfires and worsened food insecurity. We are pondering the limits of humans’ ability to tolerate extreme heat. Record-breaking heat waves baked India and Pakistan, then monsoon flooding left about a third of Pakistan under water, affecting an estimated 33 million people taking 1500 lives, 1.8 million homeless with million of livestock and acute shortages of food for million. Even temperature broke 50°C in Sri Ganganagar, Rajasthan, in May. Landslides have killed at least 145 people in four North -eastern states this year including the Tupul on June 30.

Extreme heat in Europe led to wildfires, especially in Spain and Portugal. The drought in Spain dried up a reservoir, revealing the long-submerged “Spanish Stonehenge,” an ancient circle of megalithic stones believed to date back to around 5000 B.C. Electricity generation in France plummeted, with low rivers reducing the ability to cool nuclear power towers, and German barges had difficulty finding enough water to navigate the Rhine River.

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Over and above the Russian war against Ukraine, large parts of Europe sweltered in repeated episodes of extreme heat. The United Kingdom saw a new national record of 40°C for the first time on 19 July, 2022 accompanied by a persistent drought and wildfires. European rivers including the Rhine, Loire and Danube fell to critically low levels.

In United States, the West and the Midwest suffered through intense heat waves, and the crucial Colorado River reservoirs Lake Powell and Lake Mead hit record lows, triggering water restrictions. Yet, U.S also saw major disruptive flooding in several cities and regions, from Death Valley to the mountains of eastern Kentucky.

In China, heat waves and drought stretched over eight weeks and dried up parts of the Yangtze River to the lowest level since at least 1865 – until parts of the same area were inundated with flooding rains in August. Whole of the South Asian countries including Philippine, Indonesia and Vietnam were extremely suffered from the floods, cyclones and heatwaves.

2022 took an exceptionally heavy toll on glaciers in the Himalayas and European Alps, with initial indications of record-shattering melt with average thickness losses of between 3 to 4 m. The Greenland ice sheet lost mass for the 26th consecutive year and it rained rather than snowed there for the first time in September, 2022.

In Switzerland, 6% of the glacier ice volume was lost between 2022 and for the first time in history, no snow outlasted the summer season even at the highest points.

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Arctic sea-ice extent was below the long-term (1981-2010) average during the September 2022 from 4.87 million sq. Km to 1.54 million sq. km. Antarctic sea-ice extent dropped to 1.92 million sq. km, the lowest level on record and almost 1 million sq. km below the long-term average.

In East Africa, rainfall has been below average in four consecutive wet seasons, the longest in 40 years. As a result, an estimated 18.4 to 19.3 million people faced food insecurity before June 2022. Humanitarian agencies warned that such food insecurity situations will be prevailing in most of the African countries like Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia. The southern Africa region was battered by a series of cyclones hitting Madagascar hardest with torrential rain and devastating floods. Hurricane Ian caused extensive damage and loss of life in Cuba and southwest Florida in September.

In the Southern Hemisphere, due to marine heat wave, New Zealand and other South Pacific islands were to the warmest and wettest meteorological winter (June-August) with several major floods. Rain was 141% above normal and nationwide temperatures averaged 1.4°C above the 1981-2010 average.

Ocean heat was at record level high in the past 20 years. Concentrations of the main greenhouse gases – carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide – once again reached record levels in 2022. The ocean stores around 90% of the accumulated heat from human emissions of greenhouse gases. The upper 2000 m of the ocean continued to warm to record levels this year.

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In its Sixth Assessment Report, released in 2022, IPCC warned that humans are dramatically overhauling Earth’s climate. Earth’s average surface temperature has already risen by 1.15°C above the 1850-1900 pre-industrial average. That warming has shifted the flow of energy around the planet, altering weather patterns and turning past extremes into new normal. Extreme heatwaves, drought and devastating flooding have affected millions and cost billions this year, according to the WMO Provisional State of the Global Climate in 2022 report.

In addition to raising temperature, global warming increases evaporation and sucks more moisture from the surface waters and amplifies warming. When water evaporates, it absorbs heat, and when it later falls as rain, that heat is released back into the atmosphere. This extra energy fuels storms, leading to more intense systems that may also be bigger and last longer, with up to 30% more rain as a consequence of warming.

Yes, these are all manifestations of climate change brought about by human activities that heats up the planet. Thus, climate change interwoven with other anthropogenic crises are making the earth a boiling place, just like a hell for the future generations.

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