Record levels of heat-trapping greenhouse gases have led to increased incidences of droughts, floods and heatwaves on a global scale, the World Meteorological Organisation's (WMO) annual report for 2022 said. At least 15,700 deaths in Europe in 2022 were linked to heatwaves.
The WMO, an agency of the United Nations, in its report said real-time data from specific locations show that levels of the three greenhouse gases - carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide - continued to increase in 2022.
Droughts, floods and heatwaves affected communities on every continent and nation including India and cost many billions of dollars, the report said. Antarctic sea ice fell to its lowest extent on record and the melting of some European glaciers was, literally, off the charts, it said.
Global mean temperatures for the past eight years have been the highest on record; in 2022, it was 1.15 degree Celsius above the 1850-1900 average.
"While greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise and the climate continues to change, populations worldwide continue to be gravely impacted by extreme weather and climate events," WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas said in a statement today.
"For example, in 2022, continuous drought in East Africa, record breaking rainfall in Pakistan and record-breaking heatwaves in China and Europe affected tens of millions, drove food insecurity, boosted mass migration, and cost billions of dollars in loss and damage," Mr Taalas said.
The report said the monsoon onset in India was earlier and the withdrawal later than normal in 2022. The pre-monsoon period was also exceptionally hot in India and neighbouring Pakistan.
The extreme heat reduced grain yields and led to a number of forest fires, particularly in the hill state of Uttarakhand, the report said.
"Heatwaves in the 2022 pre-monsoon season in India and Pakistan caused a decline in crop yields. This, combined with the banning of wheat exports and restrictions on rice exports in India after the start of the conflict in Ukraine, has threatened the availability, access to and stability of staple foods within international food markets and posed high risks to countries already affected by shortages of staple foods," the WMO report said.
There was also significant flooding in India at various stages during the monsoon season, particularly in the northeast in June 2022, with over 700 deaths reported during the season from flooding and landslides, and a further 900 from lightning.
China had the most extensive and long-lasting heatwave since national records began, extending from mid-June to the end of August 2022, and resulting in the hottest summer on record by a margin of more than 0.5 degree Celsius. It was also the second-driest summer on record, with most of the southern half of China - apart from Guangdong province - having seasonal rainfall 20 per cent to 50 per cent below average.
Europe also experienced numerous heatwaves, with significant heatwaves occurring in each of the three summer months. During the summer, around 4,600 deaths in Spain, 4,500 in Germany, 2,800 in the UK among those aged 65 and older, 2,800 in France and 1,000 in Portugal were associated with the unusual heat, the report said. The most exceptional heatwave occurred in mid-July 2022.