Pena: 2021 was sixth warmest year on record

WE ARE currently experiencing cold weather due to the Northeast monsoon or Amihan. We also had lots of rains last year. Elsewhere, the weather was extreme. Did you know that last year was one of the hottest years on record? According to measurements done by the National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI) of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) of the United States, 2021 was the sixth warmest year on record since 1880.

According to NCEI, the Earth’s average land and ocean surface temperature in 2021 was 0.84 of a degree Centigrade above the 20th-century average. Ocean heat content, which describes the amount of heat stored in the upper-levels of the ocean, was record high in 2021, surpassing the previous record high set in 2020.

High ocean-heat content can contribute to sea-level rise which may submerge low lying areas. It can also make typhoons more intense. When I gave a talk on global warming and climate change to high school students of Angeles University Foundation several years ago, I was asked how global warming triggers stronger typhoons. I replied by explaining the basics of typhoon formation in the ocean.

Warmer sea surface waters provide more energy that cyclones need to form and intensify. Warmer air holds more moisture: For every 1 degree Celsius the atmosphere warms, the air holds about 7% more water. Rain falls when water vapor condenses. More water means more rain. And the heat released in that process strengthens the storm even further.

Last December, parts of Visayas and Mindanao were devastated by Typhoon Odette. In the past we have Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan), one of the most intense tropical cyclones at landfall on record and Signal No. 5 typhoon Rolly which was the world’s strongest storm in 2020. The Philippines is prone to tropical cyclones due to its geographical location.

While there are super typhoons here in the Philippines, it is opposite in other parts of the world. A few days ago in Australia, a severe heatwave along the northwestern coast pushed temperatures to a blistering 50.7 degrees Celsius hitting a high last seen 62 years ago. The hottest temperature in the Philippines was only 42.2 degrees Celsius, recorded in Tuguegarao, Cagayan on April 22, 1912 and May 11, 1969.

In Eastern Africa, more than 20 million people now face some of the worst food security risks in 35 years following three consecutive failed rainy seasons. According to NASA’s Earth Observatory, scientists who study climate and weather teleconnections point to human-induced warming in the western Pacific and the ongoing La Niña as causes of the troubles in eastern Africa. The cooling of the eastern tropical Pacific and the warming of the western Pacific disrupts weather patterns all over the world. While rainfall increases substantially around Indonesia, the effect in eastern Africa is suppressed rainfall.

Climate change is real.


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