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State of the Climate: Greenhouse gases hit a record high in 2022

In the 33rd annual State of the Climate report, experts have documented record concentrations of greenhouse gases, alarming rises in global sea levels, and significant increases in ocean heat content in 2022. 

About the report

This annual review, which offers a detailed analysis of the world’s climate, represents an international collaboration that includes contributions from 570+ scientists across 60 countries.

The report stands as an authoritative reference, bringing together an assortment of data meticulously collected from monitoring stations and instruments spread across land, water, ice, and even outer space. 

Annual checkup

Derek Arndt, the Director of NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI), likened the report to “an annual physical of the Earth system.”

“It serves present and future generations by documenting and sharing data that indicate increasingly extreme and changing conditions in our warming world,” said Arndt.

Significance of the findings 

Paul Higgins, the associate executive director of the American Meteorological Society, conveyed the gravity of the findings: “People are causing the largest known change in global climate since our transition to agriculture thousands of years ago.” 

Key findings from the report

The State of the Climate report has confirmed our worst environmental fears: greenhouse gas concentrations, global sea levels, and ocean heat content reached alarming highs in 2022. The report sends an urgent message about the current state of our planet:

Greenhouse gas levels

In 2022, atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations reached historical peaks. Specifically, carbon dioxide touched 417.1 ppm, a staggering 50% rise from pre-industrial levels and the highest ever recorded in over 800,000 years. 

Concurrently, methane saw a 165% spike from its pre-industrial level, while nitrous oxide levels increased at rates unseen in the past decade, indicating an upsurge in emissions.

Scientific analysis revealed that 2022 ranked amongst the six hottest years since the late 1800s. Despite La Nina’s cooling effect, 2022 still managed to break the previous year’s record, becoming the hottest La Nina year on record. Interestingly, the re-emergence of El Nino in 2023 is forecasted to surpass 2022’s temperatures.

Oceans bear the brunt

Oceans, which have absorbed over 90% of the excess heat resulting from greenhouse gases in the past 50 years, witnessed unprecedented heat content levels in 2022. Moreover, the global sea level set a record for the 11th consecutive year, measuring about 4.0 inches above the 1993 average.

La Nina’s cooling effect

The persistent La Nina conditions in 2022 moderated sea surface temperatures, affecting global oceanic and climatic patterns. Despite this, about 58% of the ocean surface underwent marine heatwaves, indicative of the intensifying impact of climate change.

Heatwaves grip the planet

Europe was scorched by an intense heatwave in July, with temperature records being shattered across the continent. This resulted in unprecedented glacier melting, particularly in the Alps, leading to massive volume losses.

Arctic conditions worsen

The Arctic, having its fifth-warmest year, displayed signs of rapid warming, also known as Arctic amplification. The region witnessed a decline in multiyear ice, and its annual precipitation rates reached near-record levels.

Tropical cyclones 

While tropical cyclone activity was close to average, numerous storms inflicted significant damage. Hurricanes Fiona and Ian were particularly devastating, with the latter becoming one of the costliest disasters in the U.S.

The State of the Climate report is published in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society.

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