GLOBAL – The giant fires in southeastern Australia are almost extinguished, but dry conditions expected in other regions are putting people in southeast Asia and the Caribbean at risk of future outbreaks.
Temperatures this year are likely to rise above the historical average, even without a presence of a warming El Niño event, according to the World Meteorological Organization. Abnormal drought conditions in southeast Asia, southern Africa, central America, the Caribbean, Oceania and western Australia between November and January are expected to persist.
“We just had the warmest January on record,” Petteri Taalas, secretary general of the WMO, said in a statement. “The signal from human-induced climate change is now as powerful as that from a major natural force of nature.”
Higher-than-average temperatures in northern Europe and the northern hemisphere have resulted in weaker demand for energy and sent prices for natural gas, coal and power plummeting. Gas prices across the Atlantic are approaching their lowest level in more than two decades as a glut for the fuel builds, and demand growth is under threat from a slowing global economy and the coronavirus outbreak.
January wasn’t a one-off. Last year was the second-warmest recorded. That was notable since there was no strong El Niño, a cyclic event that includes fluctuations in temperature between the ocean and the atmosphere in the Equatorial Pacific. The hottest year on record was 2016, when a combination of a strong El Niño and human-induced global warming boosted temperatures.
The trend will continue this year, the WMO said in a statement on Monday. Temperatures are likely to remain above-normal between March and May, particularly at tropical latitudes, all of which will filter into the oceans too. “With more than 90% of the energy trapped by greenhouse gases going into the ocean, ocean heat content is at record levels,” Taalas said.
Some areas just north of the equator will experience above normal precipitation, according to the WMO. These include the central tropical Pacific, southwestern Indian Ocean and eastern equatorial Africa.