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New climate predictions increase likelihood of temporarily reaching 1.5 °C in next 5 years

Geneva, 27 May 2021 (WMO) - There is about a 40% chance of the annual average global temperature temporarily reaching 1.5°C above the pre-industrial level in at least one of the next five years – and these odds are increasing with time, according to a new climate update issued by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).

There is a 90% likelihood of at least one year between 2021-2025 becoming the warmest on record, which would dislodge 2016 from the top ranking, according to the Global Annual to Decadal Climate Update, produced by the United Kingdom’s Met Office, the WMO lead centre for such predictions.

Over 2021-2025, high-latitude regions and the Sahel are likely to be wetter and there is an increased chance of more tropical cyclones in the Atlantic compared to the recent past (defined as the 1981-2010 average).

The annual update harnesses the expertise of internationally acclaimed climate scientists and the best prediction systems from leading climate centres around the world to produce actionable information for decision-makers.

“These are more than just statistics,” said WMO Secretary-General Prof. Petteri Taalas. “Increasing temperatures mean more melting ice, higher sea levels, more heatwaves and other extreme weather, and greater impacts on food security, health, the environment and sustainable development,” he said.

“This study shows – with a high level of scientific skill – that we are getting measurably and inexorably closer to the lower target of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. It is yet another wakeup call that the world needs to fast-track commitments to slash greenhouse gas emissions and achieve carbon neutrality,” said Prof. Taalas. “Technological advances now make it possible to track greenhouse gas emissions back to their sources as a means of precisely targeting reduction efforts,” he noted.

Executive Summary

Latest predictions suggest that:

  • Annual mean global (land and sea) mean near-surface temperature is likely to be at least 1°C warmer than preindustrial levels (defined as the 1850-1900 average) in each of the coming 5 years and is very likely to be within the range 0.9 – 1.8°C
  • It is about as likely as not (40% chance) that one of the next 5 years will be at least 1.5°C warmer than preindustrial levels and the chance is increasing with time
  • It is very unlikely (10%) that the 5 year mean annual global near-surface temperature for 2021-2025 will be 1.5°C warmer than preindustrial levels
  • The chance of at least one year exceeding the current warmest year, 2016, in the next five years is 90%
  • Over 2021-2025, almost all regions, except parts of the southern oceans and the North Atlantic are likely to be warmer than the recent past (defined as the 1981-2010 average)
  • Over 2021-2025, high latitude regions and the Sahel are likely to be wetter than the recent past
  • Over 2021-2025 there is an increased chance of more tropical cyclones in the Atlantic compared to the recent past
  • In 2021, large land areas in the Northern Hemisphere are likely to be over 0.8°C warmer than the recent past
  • In 2021, the Arctic (north of 60°N) is likely to have warmed by more than twice as much as the global mean compared to the recent past
  • In 2021, southwestern North America is likely to be drier than the recent past whereas the Sahel region and Australia are likely to be wetter

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