Two forecast indicators were published in the last weeks that give a dark, if predictable insight into our warming climate. The first comes from the national weather service’s climate prediction center, in their seasonal outlook maps for the coming three months. These maps, which are made by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA), forecast a winter that will be drier and warmer than usual for New Mexico, where La Niña conditions will return for the second year in a row.
The seasonal maps have given New Mexico a 50-60% chance of having above normal temperatures this winter and a likewise a 33-50% chance of having drier than usual conditions.
La Niña, which means little girl in Spanish, refers to a climate pattern in the Pacific Ocean that brings cooler, wetter weather to the Pacific Northwest and warmer, drier weather to the southern states. It is not unusual for La Niña events to be repeated annually, or to last for more than a year.
The effects of climate change on these weather patterns are still largely unknown, although much research has been done on the link between more extreme weather events and our warming planet.
While the events themselves might not be increasing in frequency or magnitude, according to the American Geophysical Union (AGU), their impacts “are being amplified, as happened during the 2015-16 El Niño. That event resulted in the most extensive and prolonged global coral bleaching episode to date, and a record increase in tropical Pacific storm activity because of the warm underlying ocean temperatures on which it occurred.”
Though far from perfect, the NOAA seasonal predictions have been 40 percent accurate over the last year.
The second indicator comes from the World Meteorological Organization’s (WMO’s) provisional State of the Global Climate 2021 report. This is a preview of the annual report given by the WMO that is based on data for the first nine months of 2021, in the form of a recent press release.
The WMO has records of the earth’s mean temperatures dating back to 1850, and revealed that “the past seven years are on track to be the seven warmest on record. Even though 2021 is expected to be ‘only’ the fifth to seventh warmest year ever… this does not negate or reverse the long-term trend of rising temperatures.”
The temperature chart included with the press release shows a clear, dramatic rise in temperatures from pre-industrial conditions to a post-industrial world.
“The provisional WMO State of the Global Climate 2021 report draws from the latest scientific evidence to show how our planet is changing before our eyes. From the ocean depths to mountain tops, from melting glaciers to relentless extreme weather events, ecosystems and communities around the globe are being devastated,” said United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres.
“COP26 must be a turning point for people and planet," Secretary-General Guterres surmises, referring to the global climate meeting happening right now in Glasgow.
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