World Meteorological Day is celebrated every year on March 23 and as we experience ever more extreme weather events attributable to climate change, this day has acquired an ominous importance. This year’s World Meteorological Day theme is “Weather and climate: engaging youth.”
Young people alive today will suffer from even greater impacts from climate change in the second half of the 21st century. So this day is an opportunity to encourage youth to learn more about our weather and climate system and to get involved in efforts to combat climate change.
Sadly only a small percentage of people actively engage climate issues, so this day is an opportunity to encourage people to act.
“There is no standstill in global warming,” said World Meteorological Organization (WMO) Secretary-General Michel Jarraud. “The warming of our oceans has accelerated and at lower depths. More than 90 percent of the excess energy trapped by greenhouse gases is stored in the oceans. Levels of these greenhouse gases are at record levels, meaning that our atmosphere and oceans will continue to warm for centuries to come.
“While the challenges facing the next generations are enormous, the opportunities for addressing them have never been greater,” Jarraud said.
Coinciding with today’s events, the WMO published its “Annual Statement on the Status of the Global Climate.” The report confirms that 2013 tied with 2007 as the sixth-warmest year on record.
“Many of the extreme events of 2013 were consistent with what we would expect as a result of human-induced climate change. We saw heavier precipitation, more intense heat, and more damage from storm surges and coastal flooding as a result of sea-level rise — as Typhoon Haiyan so tragically demonstrated in the Philippines,” Jarraud said.
Key climate events of 2013 included heavy rains and severe floods in Sudan, Somalia, northeast China, the India-Nepal border, the eastern Russian Federation, Austria, the Czech Republic, Germany, Poland, Switzerland and Europe’s Alpine region. Frigid polar air plummeted into parts of Europe and the southeastern United States, while the Middle East saw unprecedented snowfall in Israel, Jordan and Syria.
Antarctica experienced its second-largest minimum sea-ice extent during the melt season in 2013 and, during the growth season, the largest sea-ice extent since records began in 1979.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, widespread heat waves scorched Australia with record warmth and gave Argentina its second-warmest year on record and New Zealand its third-warmest.
Severe drought gripped many countries around the world — including southern China and northeastern Brazil, which experienced its worst in 50 years. Even La Réunion, a small French island in the southeast Indian Ocean, experienced historic droughts from May to September.
In Africa, droughts in Botswana and surrounding countries gave rise to a food security crisis. “Following nearly three decades of low seasonal rainfall and a second consecutive year of failed rains, Angola and Namibia suffered one of the worst droughts of the past 30 years,” the study reported. “An estimated 1.5 million people in southern Angola faced food insecurity, as did nearly 800,000 in Namibia.”
“Achieving this objective demands urgent, decisive and courageous action,” he said. “The world’s youth can be a powerful actor of change in this regard.”
“We need to strengthen formal and informal education about climate change, promote sustainability and support youth to become environmental champions in their own communities. We must ensure that youth are ready to join the emerging green economies around the world,” Jarraud said. “Let’s remember there is always a Plan B, but there is no Planet B.”