Eight Past Warm Years

Only 15% of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are on track at the half-time point of the 2030 agenda

2022 was the fifth or sixth warmest year on record even as concerns rise over the likelihood of breaching the 1.5 degree Celsius limit of the Paris Agreement “is increasing with time”, according to the UN weather agency, WMO.

Further, the WMO consolidating international temperature datasets said that the last eight years were the warmest on record globally, fueled by ever-rising greenhouse gas concentrations and accumulated heat.

The average global temperature in 2022 was about 1.15 [1.02 to 1.27] °C above the pre-industrial (1850-1900) levels. 2022 is the eighth consecutive year (2015-2022) that annual global temperatures have reached at least 1°C above pre-industrial levels, the WMO said.


The WMO mentioned that cooling effect of the La Niña phenomenon – now in its third year – prevented 2022 from being the warmest ever. However, it said that this cooling impact will be short-lived and will not reverse the long-term warming trend caused by record levels of heat-trapping greenhouse gases in our atmosphere. The WMO El Niño/La Niña Update indicates about a 60% chance that La Niña will persist during January-March 2023, and should be followed by ENSO-neutral conditions (neither El Niño nor La Niña).


Regardless of La Niña, 2022 was still marked by dramatic weather disasters linked to climate change, from catastrophic flooding in Pakistan, deadly heat waves in China, Europe, North and South America, and relentless drought and misery for millions in the Horn of Africa.

In late December, severe storms also began ripping across large areas of North America, bringing high winds, heavy snow, flooding and low temperatures.

“In 2022, we faced several dramatic weather disasters which claimed far too many lives and livelihoods and undermined health, food, energy and water security and infrastructure. Large areas of Pakistan were flooded, with major economic losses and human casualties. Record breaking heat waves have been observed in China, Europe, North and South America. The long-lasting drought in the Horn of Africa threatens a humanitarian catastrophe,” said WMO Secretary-General Prof. Petteri Taalas.

The WMO warned that global warming and other long-term climate change trends are expected to continue because of record levels of heat-trapping greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Extreme heat waves, drought and devastating flooding have affected millions and cost billions this year, according to WMO. The UN organisation mentions of severe storms affecting large areas of North America late December. High winds, heavy snow and low temperatures led to widespread disruption in the east. Heavy rain, mountain snow, and flooding affected areas in the west.

 “There is a need to enhance preparedness for such extreme events and to ensure that we meet the UN target of Early Warnings for all in the next five years,” said Prof. Taalas. “Today only half of 193 Members have proper early warning services, which lead to much higher economic and human losses. There are also big gaps in basic weather observations in Africa and island states, which have a major negative impact on the quality of weather forecasts.

Scientific approach

“Since the 1980s, each decade has been warmer than the previous one. This is expected to continue,” the UN agency said, adding that the warmest eight years have all been since 2015, with 2016, 2019 and 2020 constituting the top three. “An exceptionally strong El Niño event occurred in 2016, which contributed to record global temperatures,” WMO explained.

To reach its findings, the UN agency collated and compared weather datasets from the United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration(NOAA), NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (NASA GISS); the United Kingdom’s Met Office Hadley Centre, and the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit (HadCRUT); the Berkeley Earth group, the European Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasts and its Copernicus Climate Change Service; and the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA).

Millions of meteorological and marine observations were used, including from satellites, said WMO, adding that combining observations with modelled values made it possible to estimate temperatures “at any timeand in any place across the globe, even in data-sparse areas such as the polar regions”.

WMO also cautioned against placing too much importance on individual year rankings, as the “differences in temperature between the fourth and eighth warmest year are relatively small”.


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