Weather, climate and extreme phenomena

cover blog with snow

Scientists were already saying it: we are experiencing an era of increasingly extreme and severe meteorological phenomena (fires, hurricanes and floods…). Last year we had record Atlantic tropical storms, intense floods in China and India, forest fires that destroyed 20 percent of Australia’s forests, and in Spain, Filomena and the great snowfall, the effects of which are still with us. To understand some meteorological events such as the great storm ‘Filomena’, we must start by clarifying the difference between weather and climate. Only then will we be able to understand why there was so much snow in Spain during the last storm and how this was possible given that the planet is suffering from prolonged warming. The weather is the condition of the atmosphere at a particular time and moment; while the climate is the set of weather conditions over a long period of time. José Luis Gallego explains this very well in his article in El Confidencial,

“Climate scientists need to observe and analyse weather data over 30-year periods to obtain climate data that will allow them to establish a trend”.



Photo source: Ecología verde

Perhaps some may think that extreme phenomena are always related to high temperatures, but this is not the case. Filomena and all other snow and rainstorms are very extreme, one-off, local events that do not reduce the Earth’s surface temperature at all. When we talk about global warming on the Earth, we are talking about the climate. And it’s not just because we are saying it. The data speak for themselves: the global average temperature was 14.9°C in 2020, about 1.2°C above the 1850-1900 baseline (when records began), and this, according to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), would make 2020 one of the three warmest years on record to date.



Source: Met Office

The European Union’s Earth Observation Programme Copernicus recently confirmed that the last six years have been the hottest ever. Therefore, this climate change is having a direct impact on the frequency and severity of extreme meteorological events. In the latest press release published on 14 January this year, Professor Petteri Taalas, the Secretary-General of the WMO, stated:

The temperature ranking of individual years represents only a snapshot of a much longer-term trend. Since the 1980s each decade has been warmer than the previous one. Heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere remain at record levels and the long lifetime of carbon dioxide, the most important gas, commits the planet to future warming“.

With regard to carbon dioxide, although 2020 registered slightly lower figures than 2019, experts are firm: “Until global emissions are reduced to zero, carbon dioxide will keep building up and fuelling climate change“, insists Vincent-Henri Peuch, Head of the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS). To conclude, a real, firm commitment is needed by international governments to support the fight against climate change and the drastic reduction in CO2 emissions. That is the only way to reduce its devastating effects, which are impacting every part of the planet in every way.


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