2016 set to be warmest year on record, says Britain

A girl cooling off in a fountain monument in Vina del Mar, Chile, last month during a heatwave.
A girl cooling off in a fountain monument in Vina del Mar, Chile, last month during a heatwave.PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON • The next 12 months will witness soaring global temperatures as rising levels of greenhouse gas emissions and El Nino combine to bring more record-breaking warmth to the planet, according to the British Met Office.

Its forecast for the next five years said 2016 is likely to be the warmest year since records began, reported The Guardian. Subsequently, there will be a dip next year as the effects of El Nino dissipate and planet-wide cooling occurs.

But in the remaining three years of the decade, the world will experience even more warming, according to the forecast, which will be released this week.

It is the first such report that the Met Office has issued since it overhauled its near-term climate prediction system last year.

"We cannot say exactly how warm it will get, but there is no doubt the overall upward trend of temperatures will continue," said Dr Doug Smith, a Met Office expert on long-term forecasting. "We cannot say exactly how hot 2018, 2019 or 2020 will be. That will depend on other variables. But the general trend is going to be upwards."

The ongoing El Nino - a meteorological event that sees a band of warm water develop in the Pacific Ocean around the Equator - is about to peak, but global warming associated with the event normally lags several months behind that peak, said The Guardian.

As a result, this year could be even hotter than 2015, the warmest year so far on record.

Some global warming sceptics have claimed that El Nino was solely responsible for last year's record temperatures, with the impact of carbon emissions irrelevant. But Dr Smith rubbished these claims.

"We have had El Ninos before," he said. "The one in 1997-98 was particularly intense. Nevertheless, global temperatures were less then than they were in 2015 - and that is because background heating caused by increasing carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere are higher today than they were in 1997-98."

The Met Office said the end of the current El Nino and the possible onset of a La Nina event - which results in extensive cooling of the central and eastern tropical Pacific Ocean - will bring a temporary halt to rising temperatures, with next year likely to see mercury fall. "We can be pretty sure there will be a drop that year," said Dr Smith.

After that, however, temperatures would climb over the rest of the decade. "Whether one of these years - 2018, 2019, 2020 - overtakes 2016 in terms of temperature is very hard to predict at this stage," said Dr Smith. "We are looking quite far into the future, after all."

The Met Office study comes as an international group of scientists highlighted research using tree-ring records and historical documents that showed the last 30 years were probably the warmest Europe has experienced in more than two millennia, The Guardian reported.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 01, 2016, with the headline '2016 set to be warmest year on record, says Britain'. Print Edition | Subscribe